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Water-Related News

Tampa's flood control canal gets 50-year checkup

TAMPA – The canal that protects Tampa and Temple Terrace from river flooding is getting a 50-year check-up.

The Tampa Bypass Canal took 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to build.

The Army Corps of Engineers began the project in the 1960s and finished it in the 1980s. So far, the canal and its flood control structures have prevented major flooding along the Hillsborough River that was seen in decades past.

Destructive floods after Hurricane Donna in 1960 sparked the project that was championed by the late Congressman Sam Gibbons and others.

"It's a 50-year-old fortress," said Mike Barlett, of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, now in charge of the canal.

Barlett says even during Hurricane Irma last year, the canal was carrying less than half its capacity.

"It was designed to handle a hundred-year storm event, plus 25 percent and we have come nowhere near getting to the capacity of this system," said Jerry Mallam, of the water management district.

He calls the bypass canal "amazing" and believes it's in good shape even after a half-century of operation.

Your questions about Red Tide’s attack on Pinellas County answered (w/video)

Now that the Red Tide algae bloom that’s been lingering along the Southwest Florida coast since last November has finally reached Pinellas County’s beaches, a lot of readers have questions about the toxic bloom’s effects. Here are some answers.

Why did Red Tide land here after all this time?

The algae bloom shifts a bit each day, depending on winds and currents. This Red Tide algae bloom, the worst in a decade, has slowly been creeping northward along the gulf coast. It hit Anna Maria Island near the mouth of Tampa Bay in early August, and then showed up about 5 miles off Fort DeSoto by the end of August. It reached Pinellas’ famous beaches over the Sept. 11 weekend and has been here ever since.

Where is it?

Generally speaking, all the beaches south of Tarpon Springs have been hit. As of Monday the bloom had also invaded the Intracoastal Waterway as well as residential canals, so it’s popping up all over.

Red tide renews its nasty grip on Anna Maria Island beaches

MANATEE - Signs of the persistent red tide bloom reappeared on Anna Maria Island this weekend after seeming to recede.

The red tide organism, Karenia brevis, has besieged local beaches for more than a month with its odor, fish carcasses and dark water. The algae bloom has also been thought by scientists to be what has killed turtles, dolphins, sharks and manatees in Florida’s waters.

Since early August, Manatee County crews have removed 289 tons of fish, according to Nick Azzara, information outreach manager for Manatee County.

This weekend, dead fish again washed up on Anna Maria Island shores.

Bradenton wants more development along the water. New rules may limit growth

BRADENTON - As Hurricane Florence ravages the Carolinas, Bradenton officials appear more worried about a relatively new law they say could limit future development along the Manatee River and other waterways.

Bradenton officials have made no secret about their long-term development goals along the Manatee River. The hope is to one day change the skyline with high-density development.

The city wants more residents in downtown and along the riverfront to attract more businesses., whether they in live high rises along the water or in apartment/townhouse complexes.

However, the Flood Peril Act adopted by state lawmakers in 2015 could make that more difficult.

Volunteer boaters needed for 25th annual fishing line cleanup

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Abandoned and discarded fishing line ensnares local birds and marine mammals

Tampa Bay Watch, in partnership with Audubon Florida, is mainly recruiting volunteers with shallow-draft boats, and has limited space for kayaks/canoes/SUPs to independently remove tangled fishing line from mangroves and shorelines of Tampa Bay’s colonial bird nesting islands. Boaters are encouraged to independently clean their assigned island anytime throughout the week of Saturday, October 6–Sunday, October 14.

Last year’s cleanup resulted in an estimated 18,860 feet of fishing line being removed from 25 different coastal nesting sites around Tampa Bay. Thank you to Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund for sponsoring this important event.

Visit the link below to register your boat:

Red tide will be a problem again someday. Manatee County wants a ‘playbook’ for next time

BRADENTON - As Florida’s Gulf Coast continues to scramble for the solutions and causes of the latest red tide bloom, Manatee County hopes to lead the way with a data-driven “playbook.”

At Tuesday’s county commission meeting, researchers from the University of Central Florida announced their plan to apply for a grant that would allow them to work on a project in Manatee County that analyzes actions that mitigate red tide and actions to take once red tide reappears.

Commissioners unanimously supported a motion to move forward with the grant application.

“Red tide is going to be returning, so it would be nice to put what we learned in a playbook and go forward,” said Charlie Hunsicker, director of parks and natural resources.

Red Tide arrives in Pinellas, killing hundreds of thousands of fish

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County environmental officials have reported hundreds of thousands of dead fish on and off the coast of area beaches stretching more than 20 miles from Clearwater to St. Petersburg, confirming that Red Tide has reached the Tampa Bay area.

The first report of fish kills came from the city of Clearwater on Friday, said Kelli Levy, Pinellas’ director of environmental management. Around noon Saturday, the city of St. Petersburg reported "hundreds of thousands" more.

Madeira Beach, Redington Beach and Treasure Island have also been affected, she said. Levy could not provide an overall estimate of how many fish have been found.

Many that floated ashore have been cleaned up by crews from the county and the involved cities that worked throughout the day Saturday. Still, Levy said she expects the clean-up to run through the weekend and into next week, as many dead fish are still floating offshore.

As of Saturday evening, a boat was circling the Intercoastal near Clearwater Pass, scooping hundreds of dead fish off the water’s surface to prevent them from reaching the beach, Levy said. More boats provided through a contractor hired by the county will arrive Sunday morning to help.

The collected fish are put into dumpsters stationed at each beach, and will be taken to the county’s landfill for burial, Levy said.

"It’s a huge community effort of all of us working together," Levy said. "We did a lot today getting logistics in place, tomorrow we’ll have a lot more done, and on Monday and Tuesday, we will be in full operational mode."

New treatment being developed for manatees poisoned by red tide

SARASOTA - Florida International University and Mote Marine Laboratory are developing new and more efficient ways to treat manatees exposed to toxic red tide.

Through a $428,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ECOHAB program, FIU and Mote are launching a three-year project to improve veterinary care for rescued manatees by studying how the cells in their immune system respond to certain antioxidants. The goal is to identify those antioxidants that may work better than the current treatment, which uses anti-inflammatory substances.

FIU chemist Kathleen Rein and Mote marine immunology expert Cathy Walsh are leading the research team.

“The current approach is simply to give palliative care and wait for them to clear the toxin and get better,” Rein said. “This new treatment could accelerate the healing process. If this treatment is successful, it could be used with many other animals including dolphins, turtles and birds.”

Tampa Bay Water offers grants for water protection projects

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$30,000 in grants is available for protecting Tampa Bay Area drinking water sources

CLEARWATER – Ensuring the region’s drinking water is clean and safe starts at the source. Tampa Bay Water is offering mini-grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 to community groups, non-profits, schools and universities that will to join the water utility in preventing pollution, cleaning local waterways and protecting our drinking water sources.

The Tampa Bay region depends on water from our aquifer, rivers and desalinated seawater for its drinking water, and Tampa Bay Water works with the community to protect those sources. Mini-grant projects are ideal opportunities for scouts to earn merit badges, students to fulfill volunteer hour requirements, and service clubs and organizations to get involved in supporting public health and safety. The projects are also great for educators looking to combine STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts and lessons with hands-on experience to supplement classroom learning.

To qualify for a grant, applicants should submit an event or project plan related to source water protection in Tampa Bay Water’s service area that includes Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

Here's how to apply:

  • Download an application at tampabaywater.org/grant
  • Provide a plan for events or projects such as river cleanups, litter prevention projects, public education campaigns and conservation outreach events in Tampa Bay Water’s service area.
  • Submit applications by Nov. 15, 2018, at 5 p.m.

All applications will be reviewed and screened against the program’s selection criteria. Organizations receiving a mini-grant will be notified in December 2018 and funds will be granted in 2019.

Now you can take your boater safety exam online

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FWC now allows online providers to offer boating safety exam

Access to Florida’s Boater Education Temporary Certificate Program has been expanded, thanks to work done by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to make allowances for online course providers to offer the required courses over the internet.

In August of 2017, the FWC amended Florida Administrative Code 68D-36.108 to allow the temporary certificate exam to be offered in an online version. This change makes it easier and more convenient for both vessel operators and vessel liveries to comply with Florida’s boater education laws, which require liveries to verify that customers born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, have met Florida’s boating safety education requirements before allowing them to rent their vessels.

Online temporary certificate exam providers will create a system that allows 24-hour, seven-day a week accessibility to the exam using tablets, laptops, or other electronic devices. This added convenience will make it easier for both visitors and residents by allowing them to take the test before a vacation to Florida.

Currently, one online boating safety education provider, Boat Ed, has completed the process to offer the exam online. Boat Ed has been a leader and innovator in boating safety education since 1995. Study or learning materials are available on the Boat Ed site to prepare students for the exam, improve their boating knowledge and increase their chances of successfully completing the exam on the first try. The exam costs $3 and study materials are available for an additional charge. A link to the exam can be found at Boat‑Ed.com/FloridaRental/.

Prior to this change, paper exams were the only option and were required to be completed and passed by rental vessel operators. The ability for liveries to continue to offer paper exams has not changed with the addition of this online option. Liveries can still purchase and administer the paper exams, as long as their contract and insurance are valid.

The temporary certificate exam is a knowledge check, not a full education course. It cannot be converted into a boater safety identification card that is valid for life. Temporary certificates are not valid in any other state and do not meet boater safety education requirements in other states.

The online exam will be 25 questions, randomly selected from a large pool of questions. The cost for the exam will remain $3. Upon successful completion of the exam, students will be provided an electronic proof of their successful completion and their passing score. A livery will be able to inspect this proof to ensure that a prospective vessel renter has met Florida’s boating safety education requirements.

The new change offers various benefits to liveries:

  • Liveries are not required to contract with any other company to use the online exam.
  • A link that will send customers directly to the online exam can be provided by liveries.
  • Liveries are not required to continue purchasing paper exams from the FWC.
  • The burden of mailing paper tests back to the FWC is removed with the online option.
  • Liveries will be able to provide speedier service to customers who take the exam in advance of renting.

The FWC encourages liveries to transition to the new online exam system to increase accessibility and streamline the testing process for renters interested in enjoying Florida’s beautiful waterways by boat.

Manatee County announces next phase of red tide cleanup

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MANATEE COUNTY – Today Manatee County announced a new program to maintain local canals and waterways impacted by the August red tide outbreak. The Nets to Neighbors campaign will provide local homeowner associations and neighborhoods with nets and buckets for local cleanup efforts.

Manatee County will continue its daily cleanup of public beaches and parks on Anna Maria Island. The County now will move to a maintenance effort, said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker during a news conference today at 1 p.m.

"We’re transitioning to a program where we will provide nets and buckets to the neighborhood sites that have dumpsters," Hunzeker said. "You and your neighbors can assist by picking up residual fish. We have no idea how long (red tide) will continue but we’re committed to helping with volunteers and equipment."

Today, nets and buckets were taken to Coral Shores, Wild Oak Bay and Trailer Estates -- neighborhoods that have been impacted most directly from the red tide bloom. By Wednesday of this week, many more nets will be available to borrow at G.T. Bray Recreation Center.

Florida DEP funds Lake Dan land acquisition

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Florida Communities Trust (FCT) awarded Hillsborough, Lake and Indian River counties with more than $6 million in grant funding to help acquire 720 acres of land across the state for conservation and outdoor recreation.

“The collaborative efforts between FCT and our local stakeholders are represented through these projects," said David Clark, DEP Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation. "I thank our partners for continued commitment to achieve land acquisitions that promote conservation and protection of Florida."

In Hillsborough County, the acquisition of Phase II of Lake Dan Preserve, encompassing 1,100 acres, will protect and preserve natural resources that provide recreation such as hiking, wildlife viewing and equestrian trail riding.

Funded by the Florida Forever Program, Florida Communities Trust assists communities in protecting important natural resources, providing recreational opportunities, and preserving Florid a's traditional working waterfronts. This preservation works through the competitive criteria in the Parks and Open Space Florida Forever Grant Program and the Stan Mayfield Working Waterfronts Florida Forever Grant Program. These grant programs provide funding to local governments and eligible nonprofit organizations to acquire land for parks, open space, greenways, and projects supporting Florida's seafood harvesting and aquaculture industries.

Florida Forever is Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving natural resources and renewing Florida’s commitment to conserve the state’s natural and cultural heritage.