An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Water Atlas program, faculty, Atlas sponsors receive FLMS Awards

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The USF Water Institute was one of five recipients of FLMS Awards of Excellence at the 2017 Florida Lake Management Society symposium in Captiva Island. Former USF Water Institute faculty member Jim Griffin was honored by the Society with its highest award, the Marjorie Carr Award, for lifetime achievement.

The USF Water Institute received the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award, given to individuals or organizations who report on aquatic resource issues, for its use of informatics to publicly disseminate data and supporting, explanatory information related to water resource management.

Dr. Jim Griffin, principal investigator for the Water Atlas program from 2005 until he retired in 2014, received the Marjorie Carr Award, the Florida Lake Management Society’s highest award. It is given for lifetime work on behalf of Florida’s aquatic resources. The award is named in honor of Marjorie Carr who, among other things, organized citizens and brought to an end the proposed Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Other 2017 FLMS award recipients:

Judy Ott received the Edward Deevey, Jr. Award, given to an individual for contributing to our scientific understanding of Florida’s water bodies. Edward Devey was an internationally recognized limnologist and was affiliated with the State Museum of Florida at the time of his death. Judy retired in March after nine years as program scientist for the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.

The Seminole County SERV Program received the Dr. Daniel E. Canfield Jr. Volunteerism Award, given to a volunteer organization or outstanding volunteer for significant contributions to the research, restoration, and/or preservation of our water resources. The award is named after Dr. Daniel Canfield, founder of Florida LAKEWATCH, the pioneering citizen-volunteer water quality monitoring program involving over 1,200 lakes statewide, and now being emulated across the United States. The Seminole Education, Restoration and Volunteer (SERV) Program works to actively restore and educate people on how to protect the waterways and natural areas of Seminole County.

Nia Wellendorf, Environmental Administrator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, received the FLMS Young Professional Award, presented to a young lake management professional who exhibits exemplary professional accomplishments and a commitment to water resource protection and management of our lakes and watersheds.

Tampa Bay Water approves 2018 budget, without raising prices

Florida’s largest wholesale water provider has approved a budget for next year, without raising prices to Tampa Bay-area consumers.

Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors approved the agency’s fiscal year budget Tuesday, keeping its wholesale drinking water rate at $2.56 per 1,000 gallons, for the seventh consecutive year.

“Tampa Bay Water’s board is committed to providing clean, safe and reliable water at an affordable price,” said TBW chief financial officer Christina Sackett.

The company expects a 7.2 million gallon per day increase in regional water demand, 4.4 percent up from 2017. Increased revenues from demand will offset the added $1.6 million needed for fixed and variable costs resulting from the higher usage.

Projected water needs to TBW member governments is 172.2 million gallons per day (mgd). The organization offers high-quality drinking water to member governments throughout the Tampa Bay region, serving more than 2.4 million residents. Counties and municipalities that get water from TBW — and share in the operating costs — include New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa, as well as Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

For 2018, three sources will provide Tampa Bay Water its water: 108.4 mgd of groundwater; 55.8 mgd of surface water and 8 mgd of desalinated seawater.

Increased demand will also allow TBW to add $4 million of pay-as-you-go funds to be used for capital improvement projects, renewal and replacement projects. Pay-as-you-go funds reduce the need to issue debt, which offers long-term savings.

TBW will not use any rate stabilization funds for 2018.

Tom Palmer: Problem of water use is not a new issue

To hear some political leaders discuss the increasing challenges of addressing water supply issues lately, you might think this is a relatively recent issue.

It isn’t.

Parker notes that Florida has had worse floods and droughts than some of the events that triggered the formation of Florida’s water management districts.

He added, however, that in the days when Florida’s population was smaller, people could manage to get water somehow and generally had enough sense not to build in flood-prone areas.

Parker made some other points that are relevant to water planning today.

Ground water and surface water are only different sides of the same hydrologic coin and must be managed as a single resource.

Mid-summer cleanup is Saturday, July 8

Calling all volunteers for a mid-summer cleanup on July 8! The most help for the cleanup is needed at the Skyway fishing piers. Other sites include Fort De Soto Park, Tampa Bay Watch, Weedon Island Preserve, kayak/canoes only at Coffee Pot Bayou, Palonis Park in Tampa and Leffis Key and Coquina Beach in Manatee County. This event is an effort to clean up after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Coppertail Brewing Company and Cigar City Brewing Company will generously provide beer for our hard-working volunteers beginning at 11:30 am at Tampa Bay Watch.

This event is in partnership with Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, and Manatee County Department of Parks and Natural Resources.

Click on your desired site to register to volunteer: Skyway Fishing Piers, Palonis Park, Tampa, Coffee Pot Bayou (canoes and kayaks only), & Leffis Key & Coquina Beach, Manatee County. They've already recruited enough help at Fort De Soto Park, Tampa Bay Watch & Weedon Island Preserve.

Boaters needed for Crab Trap Removal on July 15

Tampa Bay Watch is recruiting volunteer boaters to remove abandoned crab traps from the bay during the temporary closure of blue crab fishery on Saturday, July 15. In Tampa Bay, it is estimated that there are hundreds of abandoned crab traps that have been accumulating in the water for decades. The temporary closure is a unique opportunity that only happens once every two years. It allows us to go out and remove any trap from the water because during the closed season, all blue and stone crab traps are considered derelict. Not just anyone can remove a trap. If you are interested in being involved, you must be a part of an organized effort that has been authorized by FWC such as our event on July 15.

Derelict crab traps are a problem for several reasons: they continue to ghost fish (fishing that continues despite the inactivity of the trap) killing not only the crabs but several other recreationally and commercially important species. They also pose a navigational hazard to boaters and can cause damage to valuable and sensitive habitats such as seagrass. Manatees, dolphins and sea turtles can also become entangled in the trap line causing injury or death.

Please let them know if you know of an area where there are a lot of derelict crab traps so we can arrange to take care of them during the closure.

We are partnering with ReelCycle who will pick up all of the traps from each location and recycle all of the trap material.

Who: Anyone with a boat that is willing to help remove abandoned traps from the waters. Tampa Bay Watch will provide tarps, but your boat will get dirty. A limited number of spots may be available for participants that do not have boats (this will be on a waiting list basis).

When: Saturday, July 15 from 9am to noon

Where: We are recruiting volunteers for six different locations throughout the bay, so you can choose which location you would prefer to participate. The locations are:

  • Belleair Causeway boat ramp in Belleair Bluffs
  • Upper Tampa Bay at Courtney Campbell Causeway boat ramp
  • Alafia River at Williams Park boat ramp
  • Boca Ciega Bay at Fort De Soto boat ramp
  • St. Petersburg at Demen’s Landing boat ramp
  • We already have enough boats at Cockroach Bay boat ramp

  • Click here to register for the project!

Wastewater/Stormwater Task Force

County, city and agency partners that make up the Wastewater/Stormwater Task Force will meet on Thursday, June 22, at 2 p.m. in the Digitorium of the University Partnership Center, located on the Seminole Campus of St. Petersburg College (9200 113th St. N., Seminole).

In January, the Technical Working Group—a body comprised of 17 technical representatives from utility agencies within Pinellas County—presented an action plan to the Task Force which included an analysis of the events that led to the recent overflow situation during Hurricane Hermine. Recommended approaches were provided to avoid future sanitary sewer overflows, including:
• Increasing wastewater treatment capacity at appropriate levels
• Increasing wastewater storage capacity at appropriate levels
• Reducing inflow and infiltration of stormwater and groundwater into the separate sanitary sewer system

The Technical Working Group merged these three solutions into a cohesive plan of action and will be providing updates about specific projects that have been completed and/or are underway that address the goals of the plan.

The Wastewater/Stormwater Task Force was formed last year as a joint initiative to address countywide wastewater and stormwater issues brought about by heavy rainfall events. The countywide team is comprised of leaders and staff from Pinellas County Government, 17 municipal partners and three private utility systems.

The Technical Working Group meets regularly to evaluate each utility system’s status in regards to rehabilitation and replacement projects that are underway and/or planned, collaborate on common approaches to remediate system-wide issues and discuss detailed future mitigation plans to avoid sanitary sewer overflows during extreme weather events.

Project aims to relieve flooding in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK – Flooding is a pricey problem costing all of us in Florida, but it's a particularly costly problem in Pinellas Park. The city's main park, England Brothers Bandshell Park, continually floods.

The problem can be so bad that city leaders are forced to cancel major events because of poor drainage.

In just a few weeks, a major project will be underway to keep England Brothers Park above water.

That's good news for Danielle Hanko, who just bought a house in Pinellas Park.

"We love that we're so close to this park, but I don’t want to have to wear gullashes and be all muddy and gross when I come here.”

England Brothers Park is a soggy mess after several days of heavy rainfall.

Dave Cagle, who flies his drone at the park on his lunch break, agreed.

“Drones and water don't mix. I hope I don't land in a puddle! The park is deceiving. It looks dry, but it’s got an inch of water all throughout the field.”

Todd Leonard also lives near England Brothers Park and says on soggy days it's difficult to keep his kids dry.

“They know their limits. They know they need to stay out of the puddles. But they are boys, right?”

The 11-acre park along 81st Avenue North will soon be the focus of a major drainage project, to add culverts, grade the land and direct water into a drainage channel on the property. The price tag: $776,000.

Local governments, more or less, tackling effects of climate change

In the future, Holmes Beach City Hall may be reachable only by boat.

Predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show seaside cities gradually taking on water like a weather-worn ship. Granted, these aren’t immediate changes — the median prediction of sea level rise will reach up to 6 feet of water by the year 2100.

While doubts about climate change’s effects persist throughout the United States, rising seas, acidic oceans and stronger storms are already being felt on the Gulf Coast.

On the front lines, Gulf Coast leaders know it’s there. But what’s being done to address it?

Some residents may have to boil their water this week

Some residents may have to temporarily boil their water after their water will be shut off for a six-hour period, the Manatee County Utilities Department announced.

On Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Manatee County water customers who live on 42nd Avenue East between South Tamiami Trail/44th Avenue West and Fifth Street East will have their water shut off due to a water line tie-in. A precautionary water boil notice has been issued for after the water is turned back on; all water used for drinking or cooking should be boiled, or bottled water should be used.

The utilities department suggests that one minute of a rolling boil should be enough.

The boil notice will be in effect until two water samples are tested to meet water quality standards, which normally takes between 24 and 48 hours. If the second test deems the water questionable or unsafe, the precautionary boil will continue. A rescission notice will be issued when the water is safe.

Anyone with questions can contact the utilities department at 941-792-8811 ext. 5216 from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., or 941-747-4357 after hours or on weekends.

Summer Fertilizer Restrictions Begin in Many Tampa Bay Communities

Summer bans on use of lawn and landscape fertilizers containing nitrogen are now in effect until October 1 in Tampa and throughout Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.

The local ordinances apply to all residential and commercial properties, including landscapes maintained by lawn care professionals.

More than 90 Florida communities now have summertime fertilizer blackouts. These laws prevent fertilizer runoff from frequent summer rains from washing down storm drains and into our rivers, lakes, bays and the Gulf of Mexico. The summer nitrogen bans runs through September 30, typically the end of our rainy season.

Phosphorous is prohibited year-round as Florida soils are naturally abundant in phosphorous.

At garden centers, look for "summer-safe" products with 0-0 as the first two numbers on the fertilizer label. Double Zeros June to September image

Follow these Florida-friendly lawn care practices to maintain an attractive and healthy landscape over the summer:

  • Pump some iron. An application of iron, readily available at most garden centers, will keep your lawn green during the summer without causing it to grow more (so you have to mow more!).
  • Get Better Dirt. Mix in composted cow or chicken manure, or your own home compost, to enrich your soil.
  • Mow high. Set your lawn mower blade to 3.5- 4 inches high for standard St. Augustine grass to encourage strong, deep roots that resist fungus and pests. Pick better plants. Buy plants adapted to Florida's hot, humid climate and plant them in the right place according to their sun and water needs. They'll need less water, fertilizer and chemicals year-round..
  • Look for the BMP decal. All lawn care professionals that apply fertilizer must be certified and display a Best Management Practices decal on their company vehicle.
  • Let only rain down your storm drain. Sweep or blow grass clippings that get on sidewalks, driveways, streets, etc. back onto your yard.

  • For detailed info on fertilizer restrictions in your city or county, visit

Water-Wise Awards: your yard might be a winner

The Community Water-Wise Awards program recognizes individuals and businesses that are committed to conserving our water resources and protecting the environment by using the best in attractive, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ as well as irrigation systems or techniques that minimize water waste. Winning landscapes represent the beauty and resiliency of our natural environment.

To qualify for an award, the landscape must be located in unincorporated areas of Pasco, Pinellas or Hillsborough counties or the cities of New Port Richey, St. Petersburg or Tampa. If your landscape is in one of these areas, complete the entry form. We will review your entry and contact you to schedule an on-site evaluation if your landscape meets the minimum criteria. Past Water-Wise award winning landscapes are not eligible.

Reef Fish Anglers Needed for FWC Study

Do you fish for reef fish like snapper or grouper? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is seeking volunteer anglers and charter/headboat captains to take part in a descending-device citizen science study.

Descending devices are tools used to recompress the swim bladder and increase a fish's chance of survival when they cannot be kept and are experiencing barotrauma (swim bladder expansion when a fish is brought up from depths greater than 50 feet). Signs of barotrauma include the stomach coming out of the mouth, bulging eyes, bloated belly and distended intestines.

As a citizen science partner, you will test a descending device and help identify the benefits and drawbacks of using this tool when fishing in deeper waters. The information from all participants will be pooled to identify why some anglers might not use these tools. Your valuable feedback will be used to inform and improve efforts to increase the survival of caught and released reef fish.

To participate, prospective participants must first answer general screening questions. Randomly-selected participants will then watch a tutorial on descending devices, complete an initial evaluation, and test a descending device during the trial period from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2017.

When the trial period ends, participants must complete a detailed post-evaluation about their experience by Oct. 15. Preliminary results of the evaluation will be available in late 2017.

To apply for an opportunity to participate in this study, visit

To learn more about barotrauma, watch the video below. For additional information, call 850-487-0554 or email

June rains can ease Tampa Bay's water consumption, but not its historic drought

This week's rains won't provide much respite from what some officials call the region's worst drought in a century.

But even just a few days of grey skies and steady rains can benefit a parched region.

Tampa Bay Water, the agency that manages the area's drinking water supply, said June's early showers have already dramatically slowed daily water consumption across the region.

By Tuesday, officials said their 11 well fields were pumping 50 million fewer gallons a day compared to what the region was consuming during the dry month of May.

That also coincided with water restrictions going into effect across the Tampa Bay region. But Tampa Bay Water sees the rain as sending an important signal to homeowners: they can turn off the sprinklers this week. Their lawns don't need to be watered this week, and maybe next week too.

Water efficiency in rural areas getting worse, despite improvements in urban centers

A nationwide analysis of water use over the past 30 years finds that there is a disconnect between rural and urban areas, with most urban areas becoming more water efficient and most rural areas becoming less and less efficient over time.

“Understanding water use is becoming increasingly important, given that climate change is likely to have a profound impact on the availability of water supplies,” said Sankar Arumugam, a professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and lead author of a new study on the work. “This research helps us identify those areas that need the most help, and highlights the types of action that may be best suited to helping those areas.”

The new paper in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, stems from a National Science Foundation-funded, interuniversity research project which focuses on understanding how water sustainability in the United States has changed over the past 30 years because of climate change and population growth.

For this paper, researchers evaluated water use data at the state and county level for the 48 contiguous states. Specifically, the researchers looked at water-use efficiency, measured as per capita consumption, in 5-year increments, from 1985 to 2010.

So far, St. Pete's sewage system is holding up just fine under steady rainfall

It’s been raining steadily since the beginning of June, but, so far, St. Petersburg’s beleaguered sewer system has handled the rain.

The rain keeps falling, but not one gallon has spilled or been pumped where it shouldn’t go as of midday Wednesday. The city’s injection wells haven’t flushed any partially treated sewage into the aquifer. And the shuttered Albert Whitted sewage plant hasn’t been used for emergency storage, said Public Works Administration spokesman Bill Logan.

“It’s worked,” Logan said. “That’s the bottom line.”

The last two summers have plunged the Sunshine City into national headlines and state and federal investigations after the city discharged about 200 million gallons into local bays and streets.

Mayor Rick Kriseman has pledged $304 million to fix the sewers and more than $50 million has been spent so far this year. The city is spending so much on its leaky sewer pipes that it’s considering creating a bonding authority to save its credit rating. It's poised to sign a state consent order requiring it to keep up the repairs or face massive fines.

St. Pete giving away free rain sensors

Just one call can save you a lot of money and won’t cost you a dime. St. Pete leaders want you to conserve more water, and they’re offering to install free rain sensors on your irrigation system to help.

Using a rain sensor in conjunction with your irrigation system is not only required across Florida, but it can also mean big savings for homeowners.

St. Pete leaders estimate it can make a sizable dent in your potable water bill, which is important because more than 40 percent of your water bill goes to irrigation, unless you have a well or use reclaimed water.

The city mounts the sensors on a roof or fence and they automatically alert your irrigation system to turn off when your area gets a certain amount of rain.

Scott vetoes spending for citrus canker claims, water projects

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday vetoed $37.4 million to pay for citrus canker judgments along with $15.4 million for local water projects.

Canker is a bacterial disease that blemishes a tree's fruit and can cause it to drop prematurely. To protect Florida's $9 billion dollar citrus industry, more than 16 million trees, including 865,000 residential trees, were destroyed statewide, beginning in 2000.

In his veto letter, Scott said only that he was striking the spending for citrus judgments for Broward and Lee counties because of "ongoing litigation."

Overall, Scott vetoed $410 million from the $82 billion budget. A special session is scheduled for next week to provide funding from the vetoes for education, economic development and the Visit Florida tourism marketing agency.

Summer fertilizer restrictions begin June 1

From June 1 through Sept. 30, as part of fertilizer restricted season, local residents may not apply fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus to lawns and landscape plants.

Fertilizer restrictions apply to all residential and commercial properties, including landscapes maintained by lawn care professionals. These laws prevent fertilizer runoff from frequent summer rains from washing down storm drains and into our rivers, lakes, bays and the Gulf of Mexico. The summer nitrogen ban runs through September 30, typically the end of our rainy season.

Phosphorous is prohibited year-round as Florida soils are naturally abundant in phosphorous. At garden centers, look for “summer-safe” products with 0-0 as the first two numbers on the fertilizer label.

Follow these Florida-friendly lawn care practices to maintain an attractive and healthy landscape over the summer:

  • Pump some iron. An application of iron, readily available at most garden centers, will keep your lawn green during the summer without causing it to grow more (so you have to mow more!).
  • Get Better Dirt. Mix in composted cow or chicken manure, or your own home compost, to enrich your soil. It’s like giving vitamins to your yard.
  • Mow high. Set your lawn mower blade to 3.5- 4 inches high for standard St. Augustine grass to encourage strong, deep roots that resist fungus and pests.
  • Pick better plants. Buy plants adapted to Florida’s hot, humid climate and plant them in the right place according to their sun and water needs. They’ll need less water, fertilizer and chemicals year-round, and you’ll have more time for bicycling, boating, grilling or just relaxing by the pool.
  • Look for the BMP decal. All lawn care professionals that apply fertilizer must vet certified and display a Best Management Practices decal on their company vehicle.
  • Let only rain down your storm drain. Sweep or blow grass clippings that get on sidewalks, driveways, streets, etc. back onto your yard.

USGS study Finds 28 types of cyanobacteria in Florida algal bloom

A new U.S. Geological Survey study that looked at the extensive harmful algal bloom that plagued Florida last year found far more types of cyanobacteria present than previously known.

Twenty-eight species of cyanobacteria were identified in the extensive bloom, which occurred in the summer of 2016 in southern Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie Canal and River, and the Caloosahatchee River. As the guacamole like sludge created by the bloom began to stick together, it formed a thick, floating mat that coated river and coastal waters and shorelines – affecting tourism, killing fish, and in some cases, making people sick.

The culprit causing the bloom was a well-known species of cyanobacteria called Microcystis aeruginosa. However, water samples collected by state and federal agencies before and during the disruptive bloom on Lake Okeechobee and the Okeechobee waterway were analyzed by the USGS and found to contain 27 other species of cyanobacteria.

New research vessel to impact marine research across Florida

With the crack of two bottles of champagne and the blessing from a local priest, Florida’s newest research vessel, the R/V W.T. Hogarth, was christened and launched for the first-time Tuesday May 23, 2017.

The 78-foot vessel, named after William T. Hogarth, Ph.D, the Florida Institute of Oceanography’s former director and the former dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, will be used to support research efforts by USF, as well as more than two dozen institutions and agencies across Florida.

Legislators worked hard to keep the contract local, and challenged Duckworth Steel Boats of Tarpon Springs with designing and building the ship.

“It was a little different than anything else we’ve worked on, but it means a lot to me because I like to see that the oceans are being taking care of,” said Junior Duckworth, owner of Duckworth Steel Boats.

This fall, the W.T. Hogarth will replace the nearly 50-year old R/V Bellows, by joining the FIO’s academic fleet with an inaugural voyage, undertaking a circumnavigation of Florida’s coast.

Modified Phase III water shortage restrictions

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017 The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board voted to increase water restrictions throughout the region. The Modified Phase III water shortage affects counties throughout the District’s boundaries including Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter.

Effective Date and Areas

  • The District’s Modified Phase III water shortage restrictions are in effect June 5, 2017 through August 1, 2017, except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments.
  • These measures currently apply to all of Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties; the portions of Charlotte, Highlands, Lake, Levy, Marion, Polk, and Sumter, within the District’s jurisdiction; and Gasparilla Island (including the portion in Lee County) except as noted below.
  • Some local governments, such as St. Petersburg, have local ordinances with special watering times.
  • Some local governments, such as Sarasota County and Dunedin, have local ordinances with special one-day-per-week schedules.
  • Ocala and most of unincorporated Marion County follows the St. Johns River Water Management District’s water restrictions; however, the City of Dunnellon and The Villages remain under the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s water restrictions.
  • Unincorporated Levy County follows the Suwannee River Water Management District.
  • These restrictions apply to the use of wells and surface sources such as ponds, rivers and canals, in addition to utility-supplied water.

Instagram contest showcases Bay's seasonal beauty

Images of dolphins, sunsets, birds, and even blueberries were among the 150 photos submitted in the #LTBSpring contest on Instagram. The contest was part of the #Love Tampa Bay bay awareness campaign.

Instagram users were asked to tag photos that illustrate why they love Spring in Tampa Bay.

Lauren Clark of St. Petersburg was the winner, with a beautiful back and white image of a dolphin along St. Pete's waterfront. She received free kayak rentals from Sweetwater Kayaks and tickets to The Florida Aquarium.

Thanks to all the sponsors and participants!

TBEP director Holly Greening to retire in early 2018

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TBEP Executive Director Holly Greening announced her retirement in February 2018. Holly has been with TBEP since the Program formed in 1991, serving 17 years as Senior Scientist and the last 10 as Executive Director.

"Although I truly believe this is 'the best job in the world', I am ready to explore other avenues and interests," Holly said.

Over the next several months, Holly will work with TBEP's Policy Board to facilitate the selection process for her successor, with the goal of enabling the Board to interview and rank the most qualified candidates at their November meeting. A job announcement will be published in late August or early September.

TBEP's longtime Public Outreach Coordinator, Nanette O'Hara, is retiring a few months earlier than Holly, in November 2017. Nanette has been with the Program for 20 years.

Pinellas unveils new hurricane tools

Pinellas County officials unveiled new emergency preparedness tools and urged residents to check their evacuation zone during June 1 Media Day: Kick Off to the 2017 Hurricane Season.

With the first day of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the county highlighted the launch of the new “Ready Pinellas” mobile app designed to help residents with preparedness and decision-making ahead of storm events. It is available for free download on the Apple Store and Google Play.

Newly-released storm surge data produced by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) has resulted in changes to the assigned evacuation zones for more than 85,000 properties in Pinellas County. About 20,000 of these properties are now in an evacuation zone for the first time.

To keep residents informed about these changes, the county provided phone, text and email notifications via its Alert Pinellas notification service. Sign up for Alert Pinellas at

Residents are reminded to review their current insurance policies and consider adding flood insurance to their coverage, which takes 30 days to go into effect.

“We encourage residents to follow three key preparedness steps: connect to emergency information by signing up for Alert Pinellas, assess your risk by checking your evacuation zone and plan to prepare for during and after the storm by downloading the Ready Pinellas app,” said Sally Bishop, director of Pinellas County Emergency Management.

Emergency Management has made copies of the 2017 All Hazards Preparedness Guide available at county government facilities, public libraries, city locations and online at The guide provides residents important tips on a variety of emergency and hurricane-related topics, as well as a basic, fillable template for an emergency plan.

Residents are also encouraged to review their emergency kits and take advantage of a three-day sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies starting June 2. During the hurricane supply sales tax holiday, residents will be able to purchase items such as flashlights, batteries, weather radios and other essential items tax-free.

For more information on hurricane preparedness, please visit or call Pinellas County Emergency Management at (727) 464-3800.

Mosquito Control launches new resource tool

Traditionally, Pinellas County Mosquito Control receives its first high volume of service calls each year following the Memorial Day holiday weekend, as residents spend time outdoors and seasonal rains begin in the area.

In an effort to educate residents and ensure public health and safety, officials from Pinellas County Mosquito Control and Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County held a media event today to discuss ongoing mosquito prevention efforts and share a new online tool that identifies local mosquito populations and offers valuable prevention tips.

The new, bilingual tool provides easy navigation for residents to access mosquito prevention tips, local resources and view an interactive map of mosquito hot spots in the area. The tool is available online at

Mosquito Control is encouraging citizens to do their part to reduce the mosquito population with some simple steps:

  • Empty water from any item that can hold water (examples: flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, boat tarps, old tires and buckets).
  • Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
  • Flush ornamental bromeliads or treat with BTI, a biological larvicide available at home stores.
  • Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water.
  • Change the water in outdoor pet dishes regularly.
  • Keep pools and spas chlorinated and filtered.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.
  • Cover rain barrels with screening.
  • Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioner drip areas, around septic tanks and heat pumps.
  • Take steps to eliminate standing water, improve drainage and prevent future puddling.

Technicians note that many local homes have items or areas that contain standing water – ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes – contribute to the mosquito problem. Mosquito larvae only need a fraction of an inch of standing water to survive.

Residents are urged to protect their skin from mosquito bites when outdoors by wearing mosquito repellent (products containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus) and loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants. These simple preventative measures can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in Pinellas County and minimize mosquito-borne diseases.

In 2016, Mosquito Control received over 4,500 service requests from Pinellas County residents and businesses. To request mosquito controls service, please call (727) 464-7503 or visit

Parking lot may be replaced with pond to help with flood control

Turning land into parking lots is not uncommon, but turning a parking lot into a potential city resource is rare.

That’s what city officials may do with an old eyesore of a parking lot across from the city shuffle board court on Ninth Street West and 15th Avenue West in Ballard Park. As the city launches an effort to improve its parking lots, that particular lot may be destined for removal in favor of a retention pond.

Public Works Director Jim McLellan supports turning the lot into a retention pond.

“From a stormwater standpoint, everything rushes to Ware’s Creek at the same time,” McLellan said. “If we can even delay that water for a little bit, it will mitigate that rush of water.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent $53.7 million on a Ware’s Creek flood mitigation project, but the project, completed in April 2016, was never designed to stop the creek from flooding after a heavy storm drops several inches of rain in a short amount of time. Two months later the creek was tested with minor rainfalls from Tropical Storm Colin and the Corps boasted its success.

Feds close book on St. Pete sewage crisis

ST. PETERSBURG — The city has spent two years embroiled in a sewage crisis that Mayor Rick Kriseman once described as a black cloud. On Thursday [June 1], that cloud parted a bit. The City Council learned that the federal government is no longer investigating the approximately 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg has discharged into local neighborhoods and waterways since August 2015. “The federal investigation is now closed with no charges being brought,” said assistant city attorney Joseph Patner, the city’s chief litigator. “It’s good news.” Federal authorities appear satisfied with the $304 million worth of sewage system fixes St. Petersburg is implementing as part of its consent order with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, according to the city.

Blue carbon research shows value of coastal habitats

In addition to filtering pollutants, preventing erosion, buffering storm surge and serving as fertile nurseries for seafood, new research is showing that coastal wetlands are highly effective at trapping and removing carbon from the atmosphere -- helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The study, involving multiple federal, state and local agencies and organizations, including TBEP, assessed the climate mitigation potential of "blue carbon" habitats and how sea-level rise will impact these habitats. The report also provides management recommendations for habitat adaptation.

Marshes, mangroves and seagrasses in Tampa Bay can remove more than 73 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the next 100 years, according to a study involving multiple federal and state environmental agencies and organizations, including TBEP. This equates to taking 160,000 passenger cars off the road every year until 2100, and saving 4.25 million gallons of gas every year from 2007 until 2100.

Blue carbon refers to the ability of tidal wetlands and seagrass habitats to sequester, store or release carbon and other greenhouse gases. Blue carbon ecosystems capture atmospheric carbon and store it in the ground at rates 10 times greater than forests on a per acre basis. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), mangrove forests and coastal wetlands may be able to store up to five times more carbon than a tropical forest of equal size. Damaging these ecosystems can harm their ability to continue trapping carbon, as well as release carbon that's already sequestered.

Unlike forests, coastal wetlands store carbon mainly in soils (rather than in foliage or limbs). It can remain locked in soils for centuries or more. When these ecosystems are drained or degraded, the stored carbon can be rapidly released back into the atmosphere - sometimes releasing centuries worth of stored carbon in only a few decades. Protecting our critical coastal habitats not only protects the ecosystem services they provide (such as improved water quality, storm protection, and wildlife habitat), it can also mitigate climate change.

It's a wrap! Volunteer workdays take a summer vacation

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Our "Give A Day For The Bay" workday season concluded in May with a trash bash along the shoreline near the Blackthorn Memorial on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge approach. More than 70 volunteers removed 1,400 pounds of trash and debris.

Here is the Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Give A Day For The Bay 2016-2017 "season of sweat," by the numbers:

  • 504 volunteers participated in six workdays
  • They donated 2,016 hours of their time
  • They removed 8 tons of invasive plants, trash and debris
  • They installed 20,000 native plants!
View photos from their volunteer workdays on their Flicker photostream.

TBEP workdays will resume in September. Join their volunteer team by signing up here.

Bay restoration and research grants announced

TBEP recently awarded more than $880,000 for bay research and restoration projects through the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund (TBERF).

This year's Fund contributors are the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Transportation, Hillsborough County, Mosaic Company Foundation, City of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, Tampa Electric Company and Port Tampa Bay.

Nine proposals were recommended for funding by an evaluation committee and approved by TBEP's Policy Board. They are:

  • Boyd Hill Nature Preserve Freshwater Wetland Restoration ($200,000)

  • Coastal and Estuarine Acidification Monitoring in the Tampa Bay Region ($147,579)

  • Evaluation of Sportfish Habitat Utilization, Growth, and Condition at Large-Scale Restorations in Tampa Bay to Inform and Prioritize Past, Future, and Ongoing Restoration Activities ($114,912)

  • Hard Bottom Mapping and Characterization within the Tampa Bay Watershed ($52,500)**

  • Ignacio Haya Living Shoreline ($76,000)

  • Microplastics in Tampa Bay ($40,000)

  • Mobbly Bayou Habitat Restoration ($200,000)

  • Perico Robinson Connector ($39,333)

  • Woodstork Stormwater Pond Restoration ($10,000)**

Two Florida State Parks Listed on Dr. Beach's 2017 Top 10 Beaches

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This year, two Florida State Parks are listed among the best in the nation on Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Beach List for 2017: Grayton Beach State Park is ranked at #4 and Caladesi Island State Park is ranked at #7. Both parks offer white sand beaches, beautiful scenery and amenities for visitors to enjoy.

"Florida State Park beaches are consistently ranked among the best in the country," said Gary Clark, DEP deputy secretary for land and recreation. "I encourage all Florida residents and visitors to head to a Florida State Park beach this Memorial Day Weekend."

Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach provides an idyllic setting for swimming, sunbathing, boating and more. The park holds golden sunrises and silver moonlit evenings making it the perfect spot for exploring nature’s inherent beauty. Visitors have the option to paddleboard, canoe and kayak on Western Lake or hike more than four miles on a nature trail through a coastal forest. Grayton Beach offers multiple options for those looking to explore or relax, all surrounded by gorgeous scenery.

Caladesi Island State Park, an offshore island near Clearwater, is one of the few completely natural islands along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The beach is home to gorgeous white sands and offers visitors the options of swimming, sunbathing and beachcombing. Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy boating and surf-fishing, while hikers and birders can spot wildlife on a 3-mile nature trail or while kayaking.

The list is produced by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach,” a professor at Florida International University. Every year, since 1991, Dr. Beach has released the top 10 beaches using 50 criteria he created to rate the nation’s best beaches. Criteria to determine the ranking of the nation’s top beaches include beach material, water temperature, sand softness, smell and safety.

New construction rises in Cortez waterway

Karen Bell didn’t have much to say in mid-May about ongoing construction in Sarasota Bay not far from the A.P. Bell Fish Co. docks and the Cortez shoreline.

Cortez artist Linda Molto says she wants to know what’s going on. “Everybody is wondering and no one knows,” she said.

Raymond Leslie Guthrie Jr. and Capt. Tom Mora built the structure and they’re using it for storage and a workshop, according to Mora. Guthrie said he plans to conduct seagrass experiments at night.

The structure is in Sarasota Bay — not attached to land — an Outstanding Florida Waterway and a national estuary.

Molto wondered, “Aren’t there building restrictions?”

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates submerged lands, is unaware of any permits, Shannon Herbon, DEP media relations spokeswoman, wrote in a May 25 email.

The DEP is looking to determine whether the land beneath the structure is state or privately owned before it evaluates what regulations apply, she added.

Stone crab rebound continues as catch nears 3 million pounds

CORTEZ — The end of stone crab season today marks the second year of a rebound with a harvest of about 3 million pounds of claws valued at $30 million.

“This year, the preliminary data through April was that we’re approaching 2.5 million pounds,” said Ryan Gandy, a research scientist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission in St. Petersburg. “So we’re on track for this season to be pretty close to last year.”

That estimate surprised Karen Bell at the A.P. Bell Fish Company in Cortez. “I think we had a better year this year,” she said. “This was a good year. It was pretty steady. One of the holidays, we didn’t have much — Christmas or New Year’s, I forget which one.”

Bell expects a Monday rush of stone crab fans at her Star Fish Company Dockside Restaurant. “We’re about to do the last batch of stone crab chowder,” she said. “We only do it in season.”

The Florida stone crab season runs from Oct. 15 to May 15. Crabbers string traps up and down the Gulf Coast. When they pull crabs from a trap, they break off the claws, which grow back, and then toss the crabs back into the water.

Bell remembers several lean years for stone crabs. In 2012-13, the catch was 2.1 million pounds. In 2013-14, it fell to a low of 1.9 million pounds. In 2014-15, that number rose to 2.2 million pounds. Last year, it was 3.1 million pounds worth $33.4 million.

Pace of sea-level rise has tripled since 1990, new study shows

Virtually all 2.5 million Miami-Dade residents live on land that's less than ten feet above sea level. In terms of real-estate assets vulnerable to flooding, Miami is the second most exposed city on Earth, behind only Guangzhou, China. And Miami is basically the poster child for the effects of climate change, because the city has already begun flooding on sunny days.

But now a new study shows the seas are actually rising three times faster as they were in the 1990s.

Using a new satellite technique, the study in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that before 1990, the ocean was rising at a rate of roughly 1.1 millimeter per year. From 1990 to 2012, however, that rate spiked to 3.1 millimeters per year. Though that rate might still seem small, even a rise of a few millimeters worldwide can lead to increased flooding events or more deadly storm surges at an alarming pace.

Importantly, the study's authors claim the new data — first reported by the Washington Post — shows that scientists had previously underestimated how fast the oceans were rising before 1990, before widespread satellite data was available.

FREE Watershed Stewardship Workshop for kids in 6th-8th grade

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Keep Pinellas Beautiful has created an amazing FREE opportunity for students in grades 6 through 8! This three-day summer program will provide students with the skills necessary to become better stewards of our local watersheds. Sessions include learning about watersheds, group discussions about littering behaviors, a walking tour, hands-on activities, and much MORE!

Students will:

  • Develop environmental awareness, stewardship, and responsibility
  • Cultivate an understanding of individual impact on our local water supplies
  • Fulfill required community service hours
  • Empower themselves to become proactive towards Source Water Protection!

Where:   Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs.
When:   July 19th–21st, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

For more information or to register, contact Stephanie Lawler-Ellington.

Sponsors: Tampa Bay Water, Florida Department of Transportation, Pinellas County, Keep America Beautiful, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Duke Energy

Register now for KPB Youth Environmental Leadership Program

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Young people who are interested in becoming environmental leaders in our community are invited to join Keep Pinellas Beautiful for a FREE five days of exciting, hands-on, skill-building activities with environmental scientists and community leaders!

Kids can earn service hours while turning their ideas into actions that will protect the environment. The program will be held at Boyd Hill Nature preserve, 1101 Country Club Way South in St. Petersburg, July 10-14, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day.

What participants can expect:

  • Develop skills to inspire others through environmental leadership
  • Gain an understanding of marine debris and other environmental issues
  • Engage with experts in the environmental field
  • Acquire tools and experience to create motivational messaging
  • Participate in canoeing and cleanup activities
  • Earn hours for Bright Futures Scholarship requirements

Program sponsors: Tampa Bay Water, Florida Department of Transportation, Pinellas County, Keep America Beautiful, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Duke Energy

Water use restrictions increase for Manatee, Bradenton as drought continues

Manatee County, along with 15 other counties in Florida, must reduce water usage during what officials call “the driest dry season in the past 103 years.”

The increased water restrictions came from the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board on Tuesday. The Phase III restrictions will be in effect from June 5 until Aug. 1.

The city of Bradenton announced Tuesday afternoon that the city will also adopt the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s restrictions.

Noah Valenstein is new Florida DEP chief

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet Tuesday hired Noah Valenstein as the state's new Department of Environmental Protection secretary.

The 39-year-old Valenstein has spent the past 19 months as the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, an iconic agricultural region of north Florida home to some of the country’s largest freshwater springs.

Environmentalists praised his appointment telling the Cabinet that Valenstein has demonstrated an ability to bring people together and develop a consensus in how to manage natural resources.

District Tightens Water Restrictions throughout 16-County Region

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s (District) Governing Board voted today to increase water restrictions throughout the region. The modified Phase III water shortage order affects counties throughout the District’s boundaries including Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter.

District hydrologists report a rainfall deficit of 11-inches since the start of the dry season last October. In fact, this is the driest dry season in the past 103 years.

Under the new water shortage order, lawn watering is reduced to once-per-week and allowable watering hours also are reduced. Micro-irrigation and hand watering of non-lawn areas are still allowed any day, if needed. Additionally, there are now limits on car washing and homeowners’ associations may not enforce any deed restrictions which could cause an increase in water use. The restrictions will remain in effect through August 1, 2017. Additional details regarding the watering of new lawns and plants, reclaimed water and other water uses can be found at

The District considerers both natural water resource conditions and the viability of public supply when deciding to declare a water shortage order. For the past 20 years, the District has worked diligently with its partners to develop alternative water supplies. Even though the region is experiencing drought conditions, there is adequate public water supply available.

Florida’s dry season runs October through May. The District encourages water conservation year-round, and offers many tips to reduce water use and additional information at