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

Water-Related News

New primer to “living shorelines” published

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A synthesis of recent thinking and results from practitioners and researchers of Living Shorelines just hit the stands. “Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-Based Coastal Protection,” details many aspects of the shoreline stabilization approach, and specifically includes: (1) background: history and evolution; (2) management, policy, and design; (3) synthesis of Living Shoreline science: physical and biological aspects; and (4) summary and future guidance. Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science participated in the project.

Carolyn Currin, Jenny Davis, and Amit Malhotra contributed a chapter entitled "Response of Salt Marshes to Wave Energy Provides Guidance for Successful Living Shoreline Implementation". The multi-faceted chapter provides information pertaining to the: energetic determinants of marsh habitat distribution; relationship between shoreline wave energy and marsh erosion rates; and the ability of fringing marshes to attenuate waves and trap sediments. The chapter also describes the results of a case study of natural and stabilized fringing salt marsh from central North Carolina and combines these results with those from the literature review to provide guidance on the physical settings in which fringing marsh and hybrid living shorelines can be considered.

Coastal ecosystem functions have diminished as estuarine and coastal shorelines have been managed mostly to support human infrastructure and economic benefits. Coastal management has evolved to include the use of nature-based shoreline erosion control approaches. Living Shorelines are intended to restore natural shoreline functions in estuarine, marine, and aquatic systems.

Algae bloom in Hillsborough River reservoir leads to Tampa tap water complaints

TAMPA — An algae bloom in the Hillsborough River reservoir has put a bad smell and taste in tap water for city water customers.

"We tested the water. It is safe to drink, and we are treating the reservoir," city spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said Friday.

Since April 1, the city has received 58 customer complaints about foul-smelling tap water and 22 complaints about water with an objectionable taste. The city characterized that number as unusually high.

In response, the city has treated the water in the reservoir. Testing shows a reduction in the algae, according to Tampa Water Department director Chuck Weber. It is expected to be under control within a few days.

The U.S. Geological Survey says algae can produce two compounds that give tap water an earthy and musty taste and odor.

Tampa's water system provides an average of about 80 million gallons a day, with most of it coming from the reservoir behind a dam in Sulphur Springs. The 1,300-acre reservoir can hold up to 1.2 billion gallons.

"This happens every year when there is no flow over the dam and the temperature warms up," Brad Baird, the city's administrator for public works and utility services, said in a statement released through the mayor's office. "We spray the reservoir to kill this algae. We also adjust our treatment processes to account for additional algae in the source water."

Florida Senate unanimously supports pollution notification rules change

The Florida Senate unanimously approved legislation Tuesday requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to inform the public within 24 hours after a spill occurs.

Senators passed SB 532 on its third and final reading.

Sponsored by Manatee County Republican Bill Galvano, the bill was filed in the wake of Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for new public notification rules and legislation to ensure the public is kept informed of incidents of pollution that may cause a threat to public health and Florida’s air and water resources. The push came after a sewage spill last fall in St. Petersburg and Mosaic’s sinkhole in Mulberry that sent toxins in the drinking water supply.

The DEP filed suit, issuing an emergency rule requiring those responsible to notify the public within 24 hours. After business groups had challenged the rule, an administrative law judge rejected the rule, saying the department exceeded its rule-making authority.

SB 532 also requires DEP to develop and publish a list of substances that “pose a substantial risk to public health, safety or welfare.” If any company fails to notify the Department of an incident involving one of the published substances, it could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day.

“People have a right to know, and it’s at the heart of public safety,” Galvano said.

All eyes are now focused on the legislation is being carried in the House (HB 1065) by Pasadena Republican Kathleen Peters. If it passes there, it goes to Scott’s desk.

Warning from SWFWMD: Additional water restrictions are possible

A water shortage order could be in the future for 16 Florida counties due to the ongoing drought.

The governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, will discuss a vote on a staff-recommended phase 1 water shortage order for their 16 counties, including Manatee and Sarasota.

The order won’t be final until the board votes to approve it at their next meeting on April 25 in Haines City.

If approved, this phase won’t change current watering conservation schedules. It only would be a first step to warn residents that stricter water restrictions could be coming, said Swiftmud public information officer Susanna Martinez Tarokh.

The order will require more frequent and detailed reporting to Swiftmud on the utilities’ ends, said Manatee County water division manager Mark Simpson. The county will also have to review its enforcement policies.

Since April 2017 was proclaimed Water Conservation Month by the board of county commissioners, Simpson said residents will get notifications about ways to conserve water. But even with the potential of a water shortage order, he said Manatee County’s water supply is still safe, with current levels at Lake Manatee Reservoir able to fuel water needs through September.

Residents should be mindful of year-long county water restrictions set Swiftmud and try to find ways to save water where they can.

As the drought is expected to continue until rains begin in June, the prevalence of wildfires across the state is on the rise. According to the Florida Forest Service’s fire danger index, Manatee County continues to have a very high fire risk. The Myakka River District is still restricting burns to citrus piles only.

Desal plant, reservoir easing effects of Tampa Bay’s drought

Florida's drought has become so dire that the Southwest Florida Water Management District is about to alert homeowners to watch for watering restrictions.

The board, also known as Swiftmud, is expected next week to declare a phase one water order. That means it will alert the residents of the 16 counties it oversees that they should get ready to scale back their water use.

In the Tampa Bay area, a drought such as this one used to mean pumping more water from the aquifer to replace the lack of rain. The result would be dried up lakes and wetlands, sometimes causing permanent damage.

No more, though. Now that Tampa Bay Water has built a desalination plant and a 15 billion gallon reservoir, the region can handle a drought without damaging the environment, according to chief technical officer Alison Adams.

Having those facilities "does impact how we can manage our way through a drought now," Adams said. "We can continue meeting the demand for water and not have the kind of environmental damage we had."

Those controversial and, at times, trouble-prone facilities give the Tampa Bay region an advantage over most of Florida in responding to the prolonged drought and resulting wildfires. Only the Peace River Water Supply Authority, which supplies water to Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties, is similarly equipped for a drought.

Manatee Planning Commission recommends Long Bar Pointe project, aka Aqua by the Bay

BRADENTON — Aqua by the Bay is the second—maybe the third—name of this Long Bar Pointe LLLP project by Medallion Homes builder Carlos Beruff, and three years in the making. The application barely squeezed by in a 3-2 vote that followed a recommendation by the planning commission. Commissioners Conerly and Rutledge were absent.

The vote sends a message from the planning commission to the BOCC (Board of County Commission) recommending the BOCC approve the 2,894 residential unit project.

The request proposed a rezoning of 191 acres for single family residential dwellings and 130 acres from A-1, to PDMU (Planned Development Mixed Use).

The proposed Aqua by the Bay also requests approval for a General Development Plan (GDP) that would allow a seven phase mixed-use development on the 529 acre site.

The site is west of the intersection of 75th Street West and 53rd Avenue West, between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay, a perennial stream.

There are approximately 264 acres of wetlands, of which 13 acres will be impacted. The project is in the CHHA (Coastal High Hazard Area), CEA (Coastal Evacuation Area), and CPA (Coastal Planning Area) Overlay Districts.

There weren't any designs presented for the vertical wall and lagoon proposed to protect the shore and mangroves. One of the echoing complaints from those opposed to the project was that few things were complete, and 'too many things are missing' from the required procedures in the application.

New Mote app analyzes microscopic red tide data

SARASOTA — The future of red tide data collection is here — in cellphone application form.

Scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System have teamed up to create a NASA-funded cellphone microscope app, the “HABscope,” that can, within minutes, analyze the concentration of cells of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, in any given water sample extracted from the shore.

Volunteers place drops of the water sample from a pipette onto a microscope slide and take a video of the sample. Once they file the video of the sample, the app calculates the cells per liter, which in turn determines the level of red tide in the water. The app has an algorithm that can identify Karenia brevis based on its swimming pattern.

Congresswoman, Others Decry Proposed EPA Budget Cuts

On a hot spring afternoon, with the waters of Tampa Bay lapping the shores of Tampa's Picnic Island in the background, Rep. Kathy Castor and representatives from environmental groups such as the Tampa Audubon Society, The Sierra Club and Environment Florida spoke out against the Trump Administration's plans to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Castor distinctly remembers growing up in the Tampa Bay region when it didn't look at all like it does now.

"The air quality was very poor, you could smell it, you could taste it, and the Clean Air Act has improved the air we breathe, clearly, in the Tampa Bay area," she said.

She also said when she was a girl, people were warned against swimming in Tampa Bay, because water conditions were so bad.

The gathering was on the seventh anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the effects of which she said the state is still dealing with. Castor said cuts to the EPA, which could eliminate 31 percent of its funding, would harm not only Florida's environment, but also its economy.

Castor said, "We intend to fight to protect what makes Florida special and drives our economy: clean and healthy beaches and a beautiful Tampa Bay." She said she plans to introduce legislation to restore initiatives like the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and initiatives that protect Florida's water and air.

University of South Florida St. Petersburg Oceanographer David Hollander said people in power need to take the long view when it comes to the environment. He says it took years to decades to develop and refine programs like the Clean Water Act through the EPA.

“The fact that you can dismantle these programs within a one-to-two-year time scale doesn't take into account if things were to change, how long does it take to come back from the loss of the Clean Water Act and the regulations associated with this,” Hollander said.

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen says the water his city discharges into the bay is "drinking quality." But he says the city can't do it alone.

“We are spending $250 million improving our storm water system. And the bottom line is that if the Trump Administration policies undercut our local efforts, it's all going to come for naught, because we need the strength of the federal government behind us to keep this bay clean,” Cohen said.

Wildfire emergency shuts down all SWFWMD campgrounds

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) has closed all District managed campgrounds throughout our 16-county region during Florida’s wildfire emergency event.

The following District managed campgrounds are closed until further notice:

• Cypress Creek Preserve
• Deep Creek Preserve
• Flying Eagle Preserve
• Green Swamp – East Tract
• Green Swamp – Hampton Tract
• Green Swamp – West Tract
• Lake Panasofkee
• Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve
• Potts Preserve
• Starkey Wilderness Preserve – Serenova Tract
• Upper Hillsborough Preserve – Alston Tract
• Upper Hillsborough Preserve – Upper Hillsborough Tract

Additional information about District properties closed due to wildfires can be found on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org. As a reminder, you can find the latest information on Twitter.com/SWFWMD

(Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region [CC BY 2.0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

St. Petersburg debates public solutions for fixing private sewage lines

ST. PETERSBURG — City officials believe the waste flowing through private lines into the city's public wastewater system is a big part of the Sunshine City's sewage crisis.

Officials don't know how big of a problem, though, partly because the city doesn't have an ordinance to require private homes and businesses to allow their lines to be inspected.

At Thursday's St. Petersburg City Council meeting, council members and city attorneys wrestled with how to get on (or under) private property to assess how many private pipes are rotting away, allowing storm and groundwater to leak into the system and overwhelm St. Petersburg's three sewer plants.

Residents "may not be aware that it is their responsibility to fix it … as long as it doesn't back up into their shower, it's not a concern," said Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley.

Of course, any program that would require residents to pay potentially thousands of dollars to replace their sewer lines faces plenty of political land mines, he said.

Rep. Buchanan sends letter to Congressional panel asking for help in preserving estuaries

BRADENTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key) announced Friday that he has written a letter to a congressional panel requesting assistance in preserving 28 ecosystems formally recognized by Congress as "estuaries of national significance," including Sarasota Bay.

The letter, which was sent to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies from Buchanan and other Congressional lawmakers, asking IERA Chairman, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Cali.) to "invest directly in the stewardship of our nation's coasts by ensuring that each of the 28 NEPs in the field receives full funding in FY2018."

Estuaries are coastal bodies of water that are a mix of freshwater and saltwater from the sea, serving as connections between rivers and oceans. The National Estuary Program gives funding to restore and protect the quality of the 28 estuaries of the United States. According to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Sarasota Bay is estimated to hold more than 1,400 native species and is responsible for a yearly influx of almost $1.8 billion into Florida's economy.

New plans for Long Bar Pointe reignite debate

MANATEE COUNTY — Developers and environmentalists are at odds again over the future of Long Bar Pointe, the last significant stretch of mangrove-fringed, undeveloped land on Sarasota Bay.

On Thursday, the Manatee County Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing about Aqua by the Bay, a revised development plan for former farmland between El Conquisator Parkway and Sarasota Bay.

The project application describes Long Bar Pointe as a “well-known and beautiful property ... The site is surrounded by water and magnificent mangroves and these natural features will become one of the biggest assets of the future Aqua development. The mixed-use project will be gated and highly amenitized to create a special place in west Bradenton that will be cherished by future generations, with enduring value for the entire community.”

Cargor Partners, the developers, envision “a walkable community” with a West Indies architectural theme. It would include 2,894 residences (2,384 multi-family units and 510 single-family lots) and 78,000 square feet of commercial space. Two multi-family high-rises are included, both exceeding the county’s 35-foot height limit — with one being five stories and the other at 13 stories (including three levels of parking).

More than 100 Florida wildfires scorch state, a sign of how dry we are

Last year Florida was waterlogged. This year Florida is on fire.

More than 100 active wildfires are burning across the state right now, according to the Florida Forest Service. Twenty-five of them are scorching more than 100 acres each.

"We're usually not this active this early in the season," the service's assistant fire chief, Ralph Crawford, said Monday.

Since February, wildfires have swept across 68,000 acres of the state, Crawford said, noting that that amount is higher than the average acreage burned over the past five years.

"And we're just barely into April," he added. "Usually May is our busiest month."

Heavy rains north of Gainesville last week helped tamp down the wildfire threat in North Florida, said Florida's state climatologist, David Zierden. But south of Gainesville remains so dry that most of the peninsula is classified as being in a moderate drought, while southwest Florida is classified as facing extreme drought conditions.

With no rain forecast for at least another week, "it's going to get worse before it gets better," Zierden predicted.

City repairs Brewer pond

Someone, it seems, did not think the “no vehicles allowed in park” signs posted around Dr. Hal and Lynn Brewer Park applied to them or their boat. They did. And for good reason.

According to Assistant City Manager Bill McDaniel, the 7.5-acre pond is designed to collect and clean rainwater before discharging it into the westside canal. An essential part of that function is the silt wall throughout the pond. The silt wall, McDaniel said, helps slow down the flow of the rainwater as it circulates around the pond, settling unwanted nutrients, like fertilizer and yard runoff, before it’s released.

According to witnesses and frequent park visitors, someone — who has yet to be found or identified — put a Jon boat into the pond at the park sometime around the beginning of last summer. The boat, a small, flat-bottomed vehicle often used for fishing, damaged a portion of the silt wall.

“People may see us using boats to do repairs when the water level is high, but our people know where the infrastructure is,” McDaniel said. “This is the first time that wall has been damaged like that. It’s really not for boating and swimming and things like that.”

High water levels last summer prevented repairs from taking place sooner. Once water levels were low enough, McDaniel said, the pond was drained, damaged assessed, materials ordered and repairs completed.

The city also repaired the motors in the fountain at the park as part of the repair process. All together, the process took about four weeks and cost about $10,000 for the pond and fountain repairs combined, McDaniel said. Repairs were completed around the end of 2016 and early 2017.

Tampa mayor cites work on stormwater flooding during State of City Address

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa’s Mayor Bob Buckhorn delivered a stirring speech full of optimism at his annual State of the City Address on Tuesday.

During his speech, the mayor talked about how much all of that is costing city taxpayers.

“We’ve spent 122 million on storm water improvements, with thanks to the Tampa City Council, and for their courage, another 75 million projected to be spent in the next two years,” Buckhorn said.

Two years ago, in August 2015, torrential downpours inundated city streets and put many neighborhoods in South Tampa underwater. John Duff lives on Platt Street and had to erect barricades to keep wakes generated by passing vehicles from sending floodwaters into his home, which had already flooded three times previously.

”The street still floods every time there’s a heavy thunderstorm,” Duff said. “Yes, it does.”

Duff said city crews now do a superior job of clearing out the storm drain on his street that was clogged with debris during those floods in 2015, but he’s still concerned, because the underground drainage can’t handle the volume of water during heavy rain.

He blames that trouble on a city project that took place back in 1994, long before Buckhorn took office.

Supreme Court will not pause Obama WOTUS rule

The Supreme Court will not pause a case concerning the Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. Rule in a blow to the Trump administration. The justices’ decision came with no explanation.

The White House opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ rule and asked the court to hold off on the case while the agencies formally consider repealing it.

The Supreme Court case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, does not concern the merits of the controversial regulation.

Instead, the industry groups opposed to the rule want the high court to overturn the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s opinion that it has the primary jurisdiction over the case. The Sixth Circuit decision had consolidated cases filed in dozens of other federal circuit and district courts.

Supporters of the WOTUS rule, including environmental groups and some Democratic states, want the case to stay consolidated at the Sixth Circuit. They also asked the Supreme Court not to delay its case.

President Trump formally asked the EPA and Army Corps to reconsider the rule in February, calling it “a horrible, horrible rule.” The agencies began reconsideration process shortly after Trump signed an executive order.

The Supreme Court has asked litigants to submit their first briefs later this month. The justices have not scheduled oral arguments.

Some observers say the best way to deal with this is via legislation, where the outlook for such action is good in the House, but Senate Democrats in the past have not given support to anti-WOTUS rule legislation.

Seagrasses in World Heritage Site not recovered years after heat wave

Massive seagrass beds in Western Australia’s Shark Bay — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — haven’t recovered much from the devastating heat wave of 2011, according to a new study demonstrating how certain vital ecosystems may change drastically in a warming climate.

The peer-reviewed study, published recently in Marine Ecology Progress Series, was led by Dr. Rob Nowicki, a Mote Marine Laboratory Postdoctoral Research Fellow who conducted the fieldwork while earning his doctorate from Florida International University (FIU). Dr. Michael Heithaus, Dean of FIU’s College of Arts & Sciences, and colleagues from multiple institutions have studied Shark Bay’s ecosystem for more than 20 years. The current study included partners from FIU, Deakin University in Australia and Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Shark Bay earned its World Heritage status, in part, because of its 1,853 square miles (4,800 square kilometers) of seagrass beds, which UNESCO’s website calls the “richest in the world.” This vast, subtropical ecosystem hosts thousands of large sharks, other fish, sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins and a critical population of dugongs, plant-eating mammals related to manatees.

Apply now for Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards

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CLEARWATER – Tampa Bay Water, in partnership with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) County Extension Offices and Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program, is accepting applications for the 2017 Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards. Residents, businesses and community organizations with landscapes that represent the beauty and resiliency of Florida’s natural environment are encouraged to apply online by June 30, 2017.

To apply, applicants should visit tampabaywaterwise.org to fill out a short form and upload photos of their landscapes. If it meets basic criteria, a representative of the University of Florida IFAS County Extension will schedule an on-site evaluation of the landscape and irrigation system.

The awards program recognizes those who are committed to conserving water resources and protecting the environment by using the best in attractive, water-efficient landscaping practices.

Winners receive a custom-made, mosaic landscape stepping stone during a ceremony presented by county commissioners, city council members or mayors within their local governments.

Reclaimed water restrictions begin April 1

Pinellas County reclaimed water seasonal restrictions begin Saturday, April 1. The mandatory restrictions are different for North County and South County reclaimed water customers due to the volume of reclaimed water produced by the respective water reclamation facility supplying each area and customer demand on each system. Utilities produces enough reclaimed water on average each day to supply the appropriate amount of needed irrigation for customers, but with excessive demand at an all-time high, restrictions continue to be necessary to help provide every reclaimed water customer with an adequate supply and preserve facility infrastructure.

For Pinellas County Utilities-supplied North County reclaimed water customers located north of Curlew Road, the reclaimed water system continues to be shut down three days a week until further notice due to dry weather and excessive demand. Customers may irrigate two days per week according to the following schedule:

  • Addresses ending in an even number (0, 2, 4, 6 or 8) may water on Tuesday and/or Saturday
  • Addresses ending in an odd number (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) may water on Wednesday and/or Sunday
  • Addresses with mixed or no addresses, such as common areas associated with a residential subdivision, may water on Wednesday and/or Sunday
  • Irrigation is prohibited between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on all days

The North County system will continue to be shut down on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. The system will also be shut down from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on all days of operation.

South County reclaimed watering restrictions apply to Pinellas County Utilities-supplied reclaimed water customers located south of Ulmerton Road. The restrictions limit reclaimed water irrigation during authorized hours to three days per week based on house number according to the following schedule:

  • Addresses ending in an even number (0, 2, 4, 6 or 8) may water Tuesday, Thursday and/or Saturday
  • Addresses ending in an odd number (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) may water on Wednesday, Friday and/or Sunday
  • Addresses with mixed or no addresses, such as common areas associated with a residential subdivision may water on Wednesday, Friday and/or Sunday
  • Irrigation is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Irrigation is prohibited on Monday

Violations of the mandatory restrictions may result in a fine. Those who are not Pinellas County Utilities customers are encouraged to check with their water supplier to verify their watering days.

Pinellas County Utilities customers are encouraged to follow these restrictions throughout the year to promote a healthy, sustainable Florida lawn and landscape. The dry season also offers customers the opportunity to learn about, and put into practice, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ practices, including watering only when grass and plants start to wilt and, when needed, watering deeply to encourage deep, drought-tolerant root systems.

Utilities customers are also reminded that Pinellas County follows year-round conservation measures allowing irrigation using potable, well, lake or pond water two days per week on assigned days based on house address. To verify watering days, visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/water-restrict.htm.

For more information about reclaimed water, visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/reclaim-irrigation.htm, or call Pinellas County Utilities Customer Service at (727) 464-4000. Customers are advised to monitor the website, as additional restrictions may be implemented if seasonal rainfall is lower than anticipated and the reclaimed water supply becomes limited.