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

Water-Related News

Water goat installed along Hillsborough River in Temple Terrace

TAMPA - A local woman spent months fundraising and this Earth Day, she celebrated the fruits of her labor.

Thanks to Sue Drenberg's campaign, Temple Terrace now has a device that will collect thousands of pounds of trash and help keep waterways clean.

After seeing a Tampa Bay kayaker’s efforts to keep the Hillsborough River clean while photographing its beauty, she said she had an idea for her own community of Temple Terrace.

Drenberg made calendars of the kayaker’s photos and sold them, raising $3,000. With the money, a device called a water goat was installed by Riverside Park Saturday. Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful installed the water goat barrier, which traps trash that would otherwise end up in the river.

The water goat in Temple Terrace is 65 feet long and the attached netting goes about 12 inches underwater. Executive Director Debbie Evenson explained how it works.

Florida disasters command huge share of state spending

Disasters which rocked Florida last year are now complicating efforts to finalize a new state spending plan, with Hurricane Michael recovery and work to ease toxic water outbreaks commanding a huge share of the $90-billion budget.

TALLAHASSEE — Disasters that rocked Florida last year are now complicating efforts to finalize a new state spending plan, with Hurricane Michael recovery and work to ease toxic water outbreaks commanding a huge share of the $90 billion budget.

As a result, money for schools is tight. Some hospitals are facing cuts.

And even the tax-break package the Republican majority traditionally touts has been downsized to make money available for environmental work across the state and rebuild the devastated eastern Panhandle.

But with some $2.5 billion certain to be committed to last year’s twin disasters, some still wonder, is it enough?

“I think truth be told, when you look at some of our infrastructure, wastewater and storm-water problems — as long as we have discharges of raw sewage in the tens of thousands of gallons — we have not fully addressed the problem,” said Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast.

“It’s going to be a multi-year, very expensive project,” he added.

Indeed, data analyzed by GateHouse Media-Florida shows state waterways have been fouled by some 980 million gallons of wastewater over the past decade, with sewage spills occurring at the rate of six per day.

Court orders EPA to reevaluate Obama-era power plant wastewater rule

A federal appeals court is sending the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back to the drawing board over its wastewater regulations in a ruling that compares them to a Commodore 64 home computer.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled on Friday that the EPA’s 2015 power plant wastewater pollution rule was not stringent enough, siding with environmentalists.

Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan ruled in favor of various environmental groups that portions of the wastewater rule regulating legacy wastewater and liquid from impoundments were “unlawful.”

“The Clean Water Act ... empowers the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate and enforce rules known as 'effluent limitation guidelines' or 'ELGs.' ... For quite some time, ELGs for steam-electric power plants have been, in EPA’s words, 'out of date.' ... That is a charitable understatement,” Duncan wrote in his ruling.

“The last time these guidelines were updated was during the second year of President Reagan’s first term, the same year that saw the release of the first CD player, the Sony Watchman pocket television, and the Commodore 64 home computer. In other words, 1982."

As oceans rapidly warm, an urgent need to improve hurricane forecasts

Better hurricane forecasts require near-real-time, deep-ocean monitoring

In the past two hurricane seasons, record-breaking floods have engulfed our coastal zones in the Carolinas and Texas as storms have drawn more water and grown larger from rapidly warming oceans.

As the climate system continues to warm, we will need better prediction systems so we can prepare vulnerable coastal areas for bigger, wetter and faster-strengthening hurricanes. Hurricane season is just six weeks away.

Recent studies confirm that warming of the world’s oceans is taking place faster than previously estimated — as much as 40 percent faster than the United Nations estimated in 2015.

Research confirms that roughly 93 percent of the warming from man-made greenhouse gases is going into the world’s oceans. About two-thirds is absorbed in the ocean’s top 700 meters, noted Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth. This is the layer from which hurricanes draw much of their energy.

Pinellas County Latest To Update FEMA Flood Maps

Flooding is one of the most common and costly disasters during storms. Pinellas County is the latest area to have adjustments made to its flood map to better reflect the risk that some homeowners may face.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency updated flood maps that will serve as visual representations for areas at risk. They will also help determine adjusted insurance rates and standards for new construction.

“This is a coastal update,” said Pinellas County Floodplain Coordinator Lisa Foster. “There were updates done between the 70s and the current map which was done in 2003, but the coastal part hasn’t really had an overhaul since back then.”

These new maps will have an impact on owners of properties susceptible to flooding from the Gulf, Tampa Bay and inland areas near waterways connected to either one.

Foster stated that a common misconception is that people think they do not live in a flood zone.

Public meeting set to discuss Shell Key North Pass study

Pinellas County has scheduled a stakeholder meeting to discuss early progress on a feasibility study that will evaluate shoaling concerns at the northern portion of Shell Key Preserve. The meeting will be on Tuesday, April 30, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Tampa Bay Watch, 3000 Pinellas Bayway South in Tierra Verde.

Residents, waterway users and other interested citizens are invited to attend and provide input about shoaling in the vicinity of Shell Key North Pass and the entrance to Grand Canal. Staff from Pinellas County and its consultant, APTIM, will share information about the regional history and coastal dynamics, as well as explain the scope and goal of the study.

Previous dredging will also be discussed to solicit comments on perceived performance and potential concepts for alternatives. The conversation will be framed in such a manner to seek a balance between needs and objectives, environmental issues, coastal processes and potential regulatory limitations.

For more information about the Shell Key North Pass and Grand Canal Feasibility Study, visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/environment/coastalMngmt/shell_key.htm. Questions may also be directed to project manager Andy Squires at asquires@pinellascounty.org.

USF study: Ocean circulation likely to blame for severity of 2018 red tide

robotic glider

2018 was the worst year for red tide in more than a decade. A new study reveals what made it so severe.

The harmful algae that causes red tide is currently at near undetectable levels in Florida waters compared with the much higher concentrations at this time last year. The red tide algae, Karenia brevis, causes respiratory issues, is responsible for massive fish kills and is often blamed for damaging tourism.

While traces of the bloom are always present offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans finds ocean circulation made 2018 the worst year for red tide in more than a decade.

By affecting the nutrient levels offshore, marine scientists at the University of South Florida (USF) showed that the ocean circulation played a controlling role. If nutrient levels offshore are high in spring due to the upwelling of deeper ocean waters, then there tends not to be major red tide blooms along the shoreline in fall. Such upwelling did not occur in winter and spring of 2018, allowing a new bloom to form offshore in spring and summer 2018. An upwelling circulation then set in toward the end of July, ensuring that the newly formed bloom would be carried to the coastline along the bottom where it reinforced what had already been in place from 2017.

Tropical Storm Gordon temporarily disrupted the upwelling circulation, allowing some of the new bloom to be carried to the Florida Panhandle. After the passage of Gordon, the upwelling circulation then allowed the bloom to be transported offshore at the surface to eventually be carried to the Florida's east coast by the Gulf Stream. Thus, the rare occurrence of Karenia brevis at three different locations (Florida's west, Panhandle and east coasts) may be attributed to the ocean circulation.

"This further demonstrates that the ocean circulation is the major determinant of Florida's Karenia brevis harmful algae blooms, dispelling the myth that land-based fertilizers are to blame," said Robert Weisberg, PhD, Distinguished University Professor of Physical Oceanography. "While pollutants can exasperate an existing red tide, they are not the root cause."
 
In addition to ocean circulation models, the team at USF and collaborators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) deployed an autonomous underwater glider for a near month-long mission. Its sensors detected relatively high chlorophyll and low oxygen levels near the sea floor, along with upwelling circulation. On-site sampling also helped pinpoint the initiation zone for all three regions to be the middle shelf some 30 to 50 miles off the coast from north of Tampa Bay to Sarasota Bay.
 
Weisberg and his colleagues have accounted for the occurrence or lack of occurrence of major red tide blooms in 20 of the past 25 years based on the ocean circulation conditions. While recent sampling shows very low concentrations of Karenia brevis offshore, which is not a cause for immediate concern, it is too early to speculate on what future conditions may be. Weisberg expects to have a better idea of the possible severity of 2019's red tide season in mid-June.

Seven things you can do to help mitigate red tide

From choosing the right plants to volunteering on the beach, there are a variety of things Sarasota and Manatee county residents can do.

Has the recent red tide bloom inspired you to find ways to help your community? Take a look at seven things you can do pretty much everyday to help.

  1. Download a red tide reporting app
  2. Contact legislators
  3. Dispose of garbage properly
  4. Donate to research
  5. Choose your landscape well
  6. Be smart with your water
  7. Volunteer with a conservation group

SWFWMD to perform prescribed burns in Hillsborough, Pasco

Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s wildfire emergency in 2017. That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns April through June at the Lower Hillsborough Flood Detention Area (LHFDA) and at Starkey Wilderness Preserve in Pasco County.

The LHFDA is located south of Cross Creek Boulevard between U.S. Highway 301 and Morris Bridge Road near Thonotosassa. Approximately 300 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Starkey Wilderness Preserve is located east of New Port Richey, west of the Suncoast Parkway, north of State Road 54 and south of State Road 52. Approximately 800 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat
  • Maintaining access for public recreation

The District conducts prescribed fires on approximately 30,000 acres each year. Watch this video to learn more about why igniting prescribed burns now prepares lands for the next wildfire season.

Awards Season Open for Water-Efficient Landscapes

CLEARWATER — If your landscape is both eye-catching and water-efficient, now is the time to enter the 2019 Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards. Up for grabs are a custom-made, mosaic landscape stepping stone, recognition by local elected officials and neighborhood bragging rights.

Getting your hands on the coveted award stone requires balancing Florida-friendly plants and landscape elements with attractive design and minimal maintenance, as well as using efficient irrigation techniques that reduce water use. To see if your landscape has what it takes to win, visit tampabaywaterwise.org to apply by June 30, 2019.

Tampa port’s expansion of Big Bend channel done a year early

"One of the largest projects we have worked on" wrapped up 12 months ahead of schedule thanks to a couple of especially powerful suction dredges.

TAMPA — It's the project that took nearly 20 years to get started, but only six months to finish.

A $63 million dredging project to expand the Big Bend Channel at Port Tampa Bay has been completed a year ahead of schedule, the port announced Monday.

The wider, deeper channel will allow for bigger ships to call at the port's 270-acre Port Redwing terminals, which are expected to become a new hub of manufacturing, warehousing and ship-to-shore cargo distribution. The Big Bend Channel connects to the main channel in Tampa’s harbor, creating a link for the movement of goods between the Interstate 4 corridor and markets as far away as China.

Giant storms, aging infrastructure pushing Florida’s sewer systems to breaking point

More than 900,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed into Sarasota Bay after a violent December storm forced open a city pipe.

Summer rain in Daytona Beach and equipment failure in Jacksonville each prompted more than a quarter-million gallons of human waste to spill from sewers last year.

In Boca Raton, a pressurized pipe gushed out nearly 50,000 gallons of untreated wastewater, while another 55,000 gallons spewed from a DeFuniak Springs manhole into nearby Bruce Creek.

These sewage spills are emblematic of failing wastewater systems across Florida, which is grappling with aging infrastructure and no clear solutions for funding a fix.

During the past decade, deteriorating sewers have released 1.6 billion gallons of wastewater, much of it polluting the state’s estuaries and oceans, according to a GateHouse Media analysis of state environmental data.

More than 370 million gallons of that was completely untreated.

Experts say the sewage has fed the blue-green algae blooms wreaking havoc on Florida estuaries and exacerbated red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. Amid historic growth in Florida, environmentalists fear it will only get worse.

“We are at a point where sewers need to be replaced, and have been for some time now,” said Glenn Compton, chairman of Manasota-88, an environmental advocacy organization in Southwest Florida. “Until the local governments make it a priority, we are going to continue seeing these spills. Something needs to be done.”

Tampa Bay Water postpones water plan vote until 2020

Amid vocal opposition to the Tampa Augmentation Project, the water agency again decides not to decide -- this time until a feasibility study is complete.

CLEARWATER -— Facing strong public opposition, the region’s water supply authority again postponed voting on a city of Tampa plan to produce 50 million gallons a day of drinking water by pumping treated wastewater into the Floridan aquifer.

Tampa Bay Water board members voted unanimously to put off making a decision for more than a year, the latest in a string of delays for the $350 million project dubbed “toilet to tap” by critics.

Water board members had already postponed a scheduled October vote until February. In February they postponed it until Monday. On Monday, they agreed there were still too many unanswered questions to make a final decision and postponed a vote once more, this time until June 2020.

Florida DOH emails show agency struggled to manage algae crisis

With toxic algae fouling Southwest Florida’s inland waterways and coastline last year, state health officials faced a flood of worried questions as people turned to them for crisis leadership.

Some were specific: Were Caloosahatchee blue crabs safe to eat? Was it dangerous to breathe near the algae-choked canals? How about swimming in the Gulf?

Others were systemic: Who posts warning signs? Was any agency monitoring illness reports? Would water and air be tested for toxins?

As red tide devastated wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico from Sarasota to the Ten Thousand Islands, a simultaneous outbreak of blue-green algae contaminated the Caloosahatchee watershed. Images of bloated dolphin carcasses and people jet-boating through algae blooms filled news reports. Social media seethed with rumors and petitions. Former Gov. Rick Scott declared two states of emergency - one for each bloom.

Red tide life cycle hits four stages

From agriculture to storms, there are questions surrounding what factors actually influence red tide and its intensity.

While much research still needs to be done on the life cycle of red tide blooms, representatives from Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission share the science behind them. We explain the life cycle of a bloom, through its four known stages: initiation, growth, maintenance and termination. Also, we present some of the factors that can contribute to red tide blooms.

Mote and FGCU partner on red tide research

Sarasota marine laboratory and Florida Gulf Coast University collaborate to address harmful algal blooms.

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and Florida Gulf Coast University signed an agreement Thursday to start a partnership that addresses impacts of harmful algal blooms to Florida’s environment, economy and quality of life.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by Mote President and CEO Michael P. Crosby and FGCU President Michael V. Martin, sets the framework for future collaboration on an issue that pummeled the region last year with a widespread red tide bloom that lasted 18 months.

Karenia brevis is a single-celled plant-like organism that is carried to shore through environmental conditions such as wind and ocean currents. Scientists debate whether nutrient pollution, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, allows it to reproduce close to shore.

The toxic algae prefer warm and calm salt water. When the red tide cells die, they emit a brevetoxin that kills sea life, including 589 sea turtles during the last episode — the most in any single red tide event — along with 213 manatees and 153 bottlenose dolphins since July 2018.

SPC conference focuses on climate, sea level rise

The coordinator of the Florida Disaster Resilience Initiative and an Eckerd College expert on the mind’s processing of climate science will be among featured speakers at a two-day conference on climate change and sea level rise taking place April 5 – April 6 at St. Petersburg College.

[Sea Level] Rise Up: Realities & Opportunities will be held at the SPC Seminole Campus Conference Center, 9200 113th St. N. Presented by SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions and the Suncoast Sea Level Rise Collaborative, the conference will emphasize adaptation, resilience and opportunity as it assesses actions planned or already in progress by local governments and businesses to turn the impacts of climate change into positive economic growth.

Dr. Michael D. McDonald will deliver a noon address, Tampa Bay’s Blue-Green Economy in Times of Sea Level Rise, on April 5. He is the architect of the Resilience Systems and Resilience Networks, which seek to rapidly expand information-sharing environments, open-data systems, and collective intelligence to improve health, economic stability, resilience and human security.

Senate outlines $1.7 billion environmental spending plan

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government unveiled the Senate’s $1.7 billion environmental protection budget this morning and accepted it without comment.

“This is the day we’ve all been waiting for. It’s like Christmas," Committee Chair Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, said. “Everybody’s been up all night waiting for this.”

The environmental budget is part of a $5.9 billion package that includes spending plans for other state departments, including Business and Professional Regulation, Agriculture and Consumer Services, Citrus, Fish and Wildlife Conservation, the Lottery, Insurance Regulation, Financial Services, the Public Service Commission and Management Services.

Eutrophication of lakes will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions

What's wrong with being green? Toxins released by algal blooms can ruin drinking water. When dense algae blooms die, the bacteria that decompose the algae also deplete oxygen in the water. Without oxygen, fish and other animals suffocate. Globally, such green waters are also an important contributor to atmospheric methane -- a greenhouse gas that is up to 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

"We estimate that the greening of the world's lakes will increase the emission of methane into the atmosphere by 30 to 90 percent during the next 100 years," said Jake Beaulieu of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and lead author of a paper on lake greening and greenhouse gas emissions published March 26, 2019 in the journal Nature Communications.

According to the authors, three distinct mechanisms are expected to induce increases in lake greening or eutrophication during the next 100 years. First, human populations are expected to increase by 50 percent by 2100. More people means more sewage and more fertilizers that runoff land. At current rates of population growth and climate change, eutrophication in lakes will increase by 25 to 200 percent by 2050 and double or quadruple by 2100.

EPC PRF-funded project featured online

An EPC Pollution Recovery Fund (PRF) project - Small Farms for Clean Water: Compost Education to Encourage Sustainable Manure Management - was awarded to the University of Florida in 2017, through the Hillsborough County UF/IFAS Extension office. The project was recently featured on the Feedstuffs website. EPC awarded $15k to the project which promotes best management practices for manure storage and composting for small / hobby horse farms in Hillsborough County. The university will use a portion of the funds to develop short videos for social media dissemination and to create an online clearinghouse of fact sheets and tips for sustainable small farm management. The overall goal of the project is to reduce nutrient and bacteria loads to Hillsborough County water bodies. They will also conduct public education clinics for local 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) groups with an emphasis on proper methods for onsite manure composting.

South area of Coquina Beach parking lot to close April 1 to improve drainage, parking

The southern end of Coquina Beach parking lot will close Monday, April 1, for several months while Manatee County improves stormwater drainage and parking conditions.

The project is part of a two-phase project to reduce flooding at the popular public beach. Phase 1 is scheduled for completion by Spring, 2020. Once that project is complete, Phase 2 will begin with similar work being done on the north end of the parking lot. When complete, stormwater will drain more quickly, helping to address frequent flooding and standing water conditions at Coquina.

Chad Butzow, acting Public Works Director, said the project also involves striping parking spaces for 865 vehicles. An indeterminate number of cars can park there now since there are no designated spaces. Phase 2 will not impact large parking areas like Phase 1 since it can be done in smaller segments over time.

"This is a long term and much-needed project," Butzow said. "We all need this drainage improvement to have a top-notch beach parking facility."

During the project, Butzow recommends beachgoers to use Manatee County Area Transit's popular Island Trolley to get to Coquina Beach. Riders can connect to the free trolley from MCAT's Beach Express route on Sundays and holidays.

Sewage waste from mobile home park could be seeping into neighboring irrigation wells, state says

"Diluted, but yes," said Brian Miller, of the Florida Health Department.

Tom Fitzpatrick is fed up and says his neighbor, Sunshine Mobile Villas, is making his life miserable.

He claims he has been dealing with sewage waste water for months.

Hillsborough County Code Enforcement and the Florida Health Departement are involved.

Officials say the drain field on the mobile home park property failed and the septic system can't handle the mobile home park's waste. It's overflowing into Fitzpatrick's property, the health department says.

"Because it's not being accepted in the ground, it's actually percolating up, and that's what's running off," Miller said.

County code enforcement has fined the owner of the park thousands of dollars and ordered repairs. 

New for Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis names chief science officer

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday appointed a prominent biologist as the state’s first chief science officer, a new position the governor created as part of his focus on the environment.

Thomas Frazer, director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and former acting director of the UF Water Institute, will take the job in the state Department of Environmental Protection. His initial focus will be water, particularly the algae blooms that have plagued parts of the state’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts, affected fishing, swimming, tourism and wildlife.

“Obviously as many of you know, we have had persistent water problems, and I’ve been very clear that the time for us to address this is now,” the governor said at a news conference at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach. “We have taken action. We’re going to take more today.”

Frazer said he understood that addressing the water problems would be his priority.

Manatee property owners should be aware of flood zone status

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will conduct two open house forums to discuss updated flood zone maps that could affect thousands of property owners.

“It’s very important people affected by this show up,” John Barnott, the county’s director of Building and Development Services, said.

The meetings at the Bradenton Area Convention Center are property owners’ opportunity to discuss with FEMA whether their flood zone status has changed and file objections if they disagree with FEMA’s findings.

Postcards about the sessions have been sent to property owners affected by the maps, which were last updated about five years ago.

The new maps go into effect next year.

Manatee imposes building requirements that are more stringent than the state, Barnott said. Yet many older neighborhoods, which have homes at low elevations, can be prone to flooding, he noted.

If they did not receive a postcard, property owners can type their address at mymanatee.org/floodzonechanges to determine whether their land is now regarded as vulnerable to flooding. That status will determine whether the owners should have flood insurance. Flooding is not covered under standard home insurance policies.

The Last Green Thread: New documentary focuses on vanishing green space in Florida

A documentary film about a greenway corridor between the Tampa and Orlando areas will screen for free at Tampa Theatre on Thursday, April 25, followed by a panel discussion among local thought leaders.

The Last Green Thread tells the story of the April 2018 Heartlands to Headwater expedition three friends made along the thin green band along the Interstate 4 corridor that connects two of the state’s largest wetlands systems- the Everglades’ headwaters just south of Orlando and the Green Swamp just northeast of Tampa.

A description of the documentary on the Tampa Theatre website describes the film as a journey “into the most rapidly developing landscape in Central Florida, traveling the narrowest and most imperiled wildlife corridor in the state.”

The expedition is a project of The Florida Wildlife Corridor, a nonprofit organization working to build support to “connect, protect and restore” the “statewide network of lands and waters that supports wildlife and people.”

‘Red Tide Summit’ on Indian Rocks Beach addresses public concerns

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Harmful algal blooms (HABs), commonly known as red tides, are natural phenomena that have occurred in the Gulf of Mexico throughout human history. Last year’s red tide, which started in 2017, was a particularly epic incident that killed fish and other precious marine life, along with much tourism-driven business along the west Florida coast.

In response, Pinellas County and the City of Indian Rocks Beach held a Red Tide Summit March 28th at the Sheraton Sand Key resort in Clearwater. The USF College of Marine Science (CMS) panelists included Dr. Robert Weisberg, Distinguished Professor, and long ago CMS grad Kelli Hammer Levy, who managed a highly praised response effort to last year’s epic spill in her position as Division Director for Pinellas County Environmental Management.

Weisberg explained that ocean circulation determines the location of a red tide. Levy recalled that when signs of the bloom came to bear, she called Weisberg, who warned that based on his models this was likely to be a “significant event.” Indeed it was. After reviewing the county’s impressive response to the spill, Levy asked the audience to commit to reducing nutrient pollution.

Dolphins with brain disease also test positive for algae toxin: study

Toxins produced from nasty blue-green algae made an appearance in dead dolphins that tested positive for brain disease.

The Miami Herald reports a University of Miami study found in all but one of the 14 dolphins it examined, the BMAA toxin was detectable in those that showed signs of degenerative damage similar to Alzheimer's in humans.

The one dolphin died from a boat strike.

Researchers are trying to figure out to what extent the algae's toxins, which have plagued Florida's waterways in recent years, threaten human health. It is concerning enough as dolphins are considered a sentinel species -- one that could give warning of issues that might affect humans. 

Coastal flood maps are changing in Hillsborough County

Residents and businesses may see changes to their flood insurance rates as Hillsborough County coastal flood maps are updated for the first time in 30 years.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency revised the maps using new data and technology, including modeling storm surges, surveying coastlines and observing wave action. Improved data about the changing shoreline over the past three decades led to FEMA being able to create more accurate flood insurance rate maps.

“Although the risk (of flooding) has always been there, most of the area has been underestimated. That has required FEMA to change the maps,” said Hillsborough County Hazard Mitigation Manager Eugene Henry.

Informational meetings about updated coastal flood maps will be held April 3 and 4.

Changes to flood zones or risk levels in the new maps affect more than 40,000 people in Hillsborough County.

Anclote River dredging funds diverted to Panhandle hurricane relief

Millions of dollars that had been earmarked for a major dredging project in the Tampa Bay area are about to head farther north.

Instead of spending it on dredging the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs, the federal government is diverting $3.5 million to the Panhandle for Hurricane Michael relief.

The decision isn’t sitting well with people who live along the river waiting for flood relief, nor the people who battle shallow water trying to get their boats out of the bay, including tourist barges, fishing vessels and sponge boats.

More than 150 businesses depend on the Anclote River channel for their lives and livelihood, not to mention a million tourists who visit the area each year. It has a $252 million impact on Tampa Bay’s economy.

But over the past 25 years, silt and sediment have slowly accumulated, clogging parts of the Anclote River channel and Tarpon Springs’ main vessel-turning basin.

That’s made it tough for bigger boats to navigate and turn around, and forced many to look to other ports for fuel and service.

Manatee Commission says suburb may reduce flooding

The commissioners and county engineer Tom Gerstenberger talked in depth about the subdivision’s stormwater retention capability. Commissioners said they did not want to worsen conditions for Centre Lake, a subdivision in the vicinity that flooded during heavy rainfall in August 2017.

The subdivision plan calls for a 4.8-acre “stormwater management area” in the center of the development and a 7.3-acre “flood compensation area” between the homes and Pearce Canal.

Although runoff from the property could still occur from a major storm, Commissioner Misty Servia said the retention standards — which are more strict than when Centre Lake was built — should substantially lessen the amount of that runoff.

Scott Rudacille, an attorney for Belleair Capital, said the developer will construct a sidewalk to connect the subdivision with nearby Kinnan Elementary School.