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Water-Related News

Parts of Robinson Preserve to close as expansion project resumes May 26th

MANATEE COUNTY – Work is set to resume on the final construction phases at Manatee County's popular Robinson Preserve Expansion. The Parks and Natural Resources Department will oversee habitat restoration on 135 acres located at the expansion area of Manatee County’s most popular natural preserve.

Public access will be closed to the construction area but all other trails into Robinson Preserve will remain open to the public, including the grounds of the Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology (the NEST). [Please check the Parks Closures page to see if the NEST itself is open.]

The $2.8 million restoration project will begin May 26 and last approximately seven months. During the project, heavy equipment will be used to enhance fisheries habitat, and install native plants. Crews will also use the closure time to construct new pavilions, restrooms, kayak storage tubes, benches and trailside shade structures. The habitat restoration project, partially funded with BP Oil Spill dollars, is designed to local fisheries, and restore native habitats. The project is being funded through a combination of grants including a $1.5 million contribution from National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a result of the Deep Water Horizon/BP Oil spill. The remaining $500,000 comes from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Tampa Bay Water files ‘forever chemicals’ lawsuit against DuPont, 3M

The utility serves more than 2.5 million customers. A spokesperson said Tampa Bay Water has not detected dangerous levels of the chemicals in its supply but is taking an 'initial step’ amid evolving science.

Tampa Bay Water, the regional supplier of drinking water for more than 2.5 million people, is suing chemical companies including DuPont and 3M over environmental contamination from flame retardants, according to court records.

The utility’s filing May 14 places it among a growing number of organizations calling for damages from the corporations for the release of “forever chemicals” — certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which studies show may hurt human health. The case references pollution from a particular type of foam used to fight fires, which has been connected to training sites, military bases and airports. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection lists MacDill Air Force Base as one place with a confirmed presence of at least one contaminant. Flame-retardant foam has also been tied to tainted wells near the Florida State Fire College in Ocala.

Health of Hillsborough River in Tampa is improving

Twenty years ago, the Hillsborough River that runs through the heart of Tampa was severely damaged. Withdrawals for the city’s growing population had starved it of fresh water, making it unfriendly to wildlife.

But thanks to a recovery plan developed in 2007 by environmental groups, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the City of Tampa and others, that’s changed.

Phil Compton is a local organizer for the Sierra Club and co-founded Friends of the River in 1999 to rally support for the Hillsborough River.

“In the last 12 years we’ve seen a lot of the fish and wildlife come back,” he said. “So you see you have the conditions for the little fish, the anchovies and then you see the bigger fish like snook and dolphins coming upriver now, which we didn’t used to see here.”

The river recovery plan that improved the environment for fish and birds and other wildlife requires releasing water into the river from a variety of sources to maintain minimum flows. It also requires the Water Management District to review the status of the river every five years for 15 years. The second five-year review is set to be filed with the District Board on Tuesday.

River advocates say the river still needs more fresh water.

Manatee public beach parking time limits lifted, Bayfront Park reopened

MANATEE COUNTY, FL (May 12, 2020) – Social distancing requirements will remain but parking limits will be lifted at Manatee County's public beach parking beginning tomorrow, May 13.

County Commissioners today approved another weekly update on the County's reopening plan by County Administrator Cheri Coryea that calls for enhanced presence along popular beach areas for crowd control from Manatee Sheriff's Office on weekends until July 12. Sheriff's Office reinforcement will also to help the County's municipal partners on with parking, crowds and traffic enforcement. Residents should not park in the right of ways along Bradenton and Coquina Beaches. Some parking areas near the County's utility construction projects along Bradenton Beach will remain closed for safety.

As part of today's action, Commissioners approved extending for seven days the local state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Parking at public beaches will no longer be restricted to two hours beginning tomorrow. The County's popular Bayfront Park inside the City of Anna Maria, will also reopen tomorrow. Greer Island, a popular stop for local boaters near Longboat Key, will remain temporarily closed.

Coryea noted that all of the County's reopening actions align with federal social distancing guidelines and with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's Safe. Smart. Step-By-Step Plan for Florida’s Recovery and within an Executive Order which extends Florida's state of emergency by 60 days into July.

Sargassum seaweed could return to Florida’s beaches in coming weeks

A burgeoning field of burdensome sargassum is making its way from the eastern Caribbean to South Florida with researchers estimating an early July arrival depending on winds and current.

The bloom of brown macroalgae is not expected to be the deep onslaught experienced in the record-breaking year of 2018, but a University of South Florida forecast is calling for an amount similar to 2015 — an above-average year that saw Palm Beach County beaches blanketed well into December.

Chuanmin Hu, a University of South Florida oceanography professor who publishes a monthly sargassum forecast based on satellite observations, said the floating rainforest could reach the Florida Straits next month. From there, it would hitch a ride in the Gulf Stream current north.

Sea turtle nesting season gets underway

With our public beaches reopening today, Pinellas County is reminding everyone to keep conditions safe for sea turtles to thrive.

During nesting season, residents and beach visitors should do the following:

  • Turn off outside lights, draw drapes and avoid using flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach.
  • Remove obstacles such as sand castles or sand pits that may make it too difficult for hatchlings to make their way to the shoreline.
  • Keep the beach clean. Eliminate trash items that may entangle baby hatchlings and adult turtles.
  • Do not approach or harass adult turtles as they make their way back to sea.
  • If residents spot turtle tracks or a possible nest, and it does not appear to be protected by stakes or ribbon, call 1-888-404-3922.

Loggerheads are the most common sea turtle to nest in Pinellas County, and females generally nest from early May through August. The eggs in each nest will typically incubate for 50 to 60 days before hatching.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium monitors the beaches from Clearwater Beach through Indian Shores. Sand to Sea Inc. monitors the beaches from Redington Shores through Treasure Island, and Sea Turtle Trackers monitors the beaches of St Pete Beach, Shell Key and Outback Key. Honeymoon Island State Park rangers monitor the nests there.

Staff members conduct early-morning patrols to locate new nesting sites. Citizens should not pick up hatchlings heading toward the water, shine lights or use photo equipment with a flash. Hatchlings use starlight and moonlight reflecting off the water to find their way to the ocean, and if they become misled by artificial light, they can become disoriented and die.

Besides checking the beaches every morning for signs of new nests, nestin

Temporary Change in Irrigation Hours for Area of South Hillsborough County

Impacted water customers have later morning irrigation window through June 30

Approximately 77,000 commercial and residential property owners south of the Alafia River and west of Balm Riverview Road in the southern part of Hillsborough County have new morning irrigation hours through June 30, 2020. On May 6, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved a temporary change in the County's water conservation ordinance in order to help relieve low water pressure issues for customers on the South-Central water system during peak morning hours.

New Irrigation Hours

Irrigation of new and established landscaping at impacted properties is allowed once, between either 8:30 a.m. and noon or 6 p.m. and midnight on assigned days. No irrigation is permitted for these customers between midnight and 8:30 a.m., or between noon and 6 p.m. Irrigation days, hours for reclaimed water, and other water use restrictions have not changed.

Water pressure in the County's southern service area is becoming dangerously low, primarily associated with the irrigation of new and existing lawns and landscaping during normal early-morning indoor water peaks as people start their days at home and work. Shifting demand peaks is especially important as the region enters the traditional dry season, where increasing temperatures and low rainfall result in high- water use for supplemental landscape irrigation. Periods of extreme low pressure in the water system could result in precautionary boil water notices for customers, and impact public safety by lowering available fire flow pressure.

The year-round water use restrictions for other areas of Hillsborough County remain unchanged. All utility customers and residents are asked to conserve water and eliminate any wasteful and unnecessary water use, especially by finding and fixing leaks.

For questions about Hillsborough County's water use restrictions,

Temporary Change in Irrigation Hours for Area of South Hillsborough County

Impacted water customers have later morning irrigation window through June 30

Approximately 77,000 commercial and residential property owners south of the Alafia River and west of Balm Riverview Road in the southern part of Hillsborough County have new morning irrigation hours through June 30, 2020. On May 6, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved a temporary change in the County's water conservation ordinance in order to help relieve low water pressure issues for customers on the South-Central water system during peak morning hours.

New Irrigation Hours

Irrigation of new and established landscaping at impacted properties is allowed once, between either 8:30 a.m. and noon or 6 p.m. and midnight on assigned days. No irrigation is permitted for these customers between midnight and 8:30 a.m., or between noon and 6 p.m. Irrigation days, hours for reclaimed water, and other water use restrictions have not changed.

Water pressure in the County's southern service area is becoming dangerously low, primarily associated with the irrigation of new and existing lawns and landscaping during normal early-morning indoor water peaks as people start their days at home and work. Shifting demand peaks is especially important as the region enters the traditional dry season, where increasing temperatures and low rainfall result in high- water use for supplemental landscape irrigation. Periods of extreme low pressure in the water system could result in precautionary boil water notices for customers, and impact public safety by lowering available fire flow pressure.

The year-round water use restrictions for other areas of Hillsborough County remain unchanged. All utility customers and residents are asked to conserve water and eliminate any wasteful and unnecessary water use, especially by finding and fixing leaks.

For questions about Hillsborough County's water use restrictions, call the Water Conservation Team at (813) 663-3295.

Hillsborough to begin reopening some Conservation Parks, Preserves, Trails

Hillsborough County will open a majority of its nature preserves and the boat ramp at E.G. Simmons Conservation Park on Saturday, May 2. Several conservation parks, along with walking trails at six neighborhood parks, will open on Monday, May 4, to give residents additional options for recreation and exercise.

Residents will be required to follow social distancing guidelines, and portions of the parks will remain closed, including playgrounds, picnic areas, and kayak/canoe facilities.

The boat ramp at E.G. Simmons will reopen at 8 a.m. Saturday along with all Hillsborough County nature preserves (except for Apollo Beach, which remains closed until further notice). Find a complete list of County nature preserves here.

The following conservation parks will reopen at 8 a.m. Monday:

  • Flatwoods Conservation Park, 14302 Morris Bridge Road, Thonotosassa, and 18205 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa
  • Morris Bridge Off-Road Biking Area, 12651 Morris Bridge Road, Thonotosassa
  • Alderman's Ford Conservation Park, 100 Alderman's Ford Park Drive, Plant City, for hiking and biking only
  • Upper Tampa Bay Trail and all parking areas

Walking trails ONLY will open at the following six neighborhood parks at 8 a.m. Monday:

  • Jackson Springs Community Center, 8620 Jackson Springs Road, Tampa
  • Northdale Community Center, 15550 Spring Pine Drive, Tampa
  • Carrollwood Village Community Park, 4680 W. Village Drive, Tampa
  • Ruskin Community Center, 901 6th St.

New Tampa Bay Water conservation program launched

The new initiative aims to save up to 11 million gallons a day by 2030

CLEARWATER – Five local governments are partnering with Tampa Bay Water and the Southwest Florida Water Management District to save water in the Tampa Bay region.

The water conservation program — Tampa Bay Water Wise — offers rebates to residents and commercial property owners who take proactive steps to reduce water use and demand on the region’s water supply.

Residents and business owners in participating areas including Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties and the cities of St. Petersburg and New Port Richey may qualify for Tampa Bay Water Wise program rebates and can check their rebate eligibility at TampaBayWaterWise.org.

Residential property owners can qualify for rebates ranging from $100 for toilet replacements up to $250 for smart irrigation controllers.

Commercial property owners can qualify for rebates too. These range from $75 for installing high-efficiency toilets and urinals to $1,000 for water-saving cooling towers. Restauranteurs and food service professionals are also encouraged to change to water-efficient options for dishwashers and spray valves with rebates ranging from $50 to $400.

“Small individual changes can make a big impact,” said Amelia Brown, Tampa Bay Water’s demand management program manager. “Taking water-saving measures can positively impact our community now, and in the future. When we save water, we all win.”

Demand projections show the Tampa Bay region will need an additional 10 million gallons per day of new water supply in 2028. The Tampa Bay Water Wise program aims to conserve up to 11 million gallons of drinking water per day by 2030 through conser

SWFWMD declares Phase I Water Shortage in central and southern regions

The Southwest Florida Water Management District's (District) Governing Board voted today to declare a Phase I Water Shortage for the District’s central and southern regions, which include Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

The primary purpose for a Phase I water shortage is to alert the public that watering restrictions could be forthcoming. The order also requires local utilities to review and implement procedures for enforcing year-round water conservation measures and water shortage restrictions, including reporting enforcement activity to the District.

A Phase I water shortage order does not change allowable watering schedules, however it does prohibit “wasteful and unnecessary” water use.

The District considers both natural water resource conditions and the viability of public water supplies when deciding to declare a water shortage order – that means, restricting the amount of water the public can use.

The District has worked diligently with our partners to implement water conservation programs and develop alternative water supplies. Even though we are experiencing drought conditions, there is still an adequate water supply available to the public.

Florida’s dry season runs October through May and April is historically one of the driest months of the year. The District encourages water conservation year-round, and offers many tips to reduce water use and additional information on our website at WaterMatters.org/Conservation.

Manatee County residents may visit public beaches for two hours daily beginning May 4th

MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County officials today announced details to manage crowds amidst several ongoing construction projects on Anna Maria ahead of public beaches opening on Monday.

"There are multiple construction projects ongoing at public beaches, but we're doing our best to open other areas for parking while these parking spots are unavailable," said Beach Patrol Chief Joe Westerman. "We want people to come and enjoy themselves at our life-guarded beaches, but they need to remember social distancing guidelines and they should be respectful of the time of other people who want to visit the beach."

  • Public parking spots at the County's three public beaches will be open from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., seven days a week beginning Monday, May 4. There will be approximately 400 parking spots at Coquina Beach, 200 at Cortez Beach and space for 250 vehicles at Manatee Beach. Drivers will be allowed an available space on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Beachgoers will have two hours of free parking each day to enjoy the beach with minimal restrictions. The limit will allow visitors to enjoy the sun, sand and water for a reasonable amount of time while allowing others to visit the beach throughout the day.
  • When they arrive, drivers will be given a two-hour parking pass and a reminder to remain a safe distance from others. Vehicles parked beyond the two-hour time limit will be subject to a parking citation and fine.
  • Typical beach activities are allowed.
  • As always, animals, alcohol, fires, glass bottles or vehicles are not allowed on County beaches anytime. Other beach gear is allowed and sunscreen is encouraged, especially for anyone who hasn't been in the sun for several weeks.

County officials remind beachgoers that sea turtle nesting season begins May 1 and it's against the law to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings, or their nests.

View the latest on Manatee County's community-wide effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by visiting www.mymanatee.org/COVID-19 or text ManateeReady to 888-777. For more information on Manatee County Government, visit www.mymanatee.org or call (941) 748-4501. You can also follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/manatee.county.fl and on Twitter, @ManateeGov.

Bipartisan senators announce $19.5B water infrastructure proposal

Lawmakers on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee have announced two pieces of draft legislation that together would invest $19.5 billion into the country’s water infrastructure.

One draft bill, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) would aim to increase water storage, offer flooding protection and repair wastewater and irrigation systems among other measures.

The other, the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 aims to help communities meet their drinking water needs.

“The draft legislation will help ensure American-made goods are safely shipped from one state to another and that the water Americans are drinking is safe,” said Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in a statement.

He added that the bills, in addition to a highway bill that has already been introduced, would answer calls from President Trump for Congress to "pass comprehensive infrastructure legislation, once we are past the immediate health crisis."

Barrasso and top EPW Democrat Tom Carper (Del.) announced the legislation together in a statement, which said that the bills will build upon the committee’s bipartisan 2018 water infrastructure legislation.