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

Water-Related News

MOTE-FWC red tide initiative announces new applied research grant opportunity at national conference

Mote Marine Laboratory announced the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative’s first competitive grant opportunity for scientists working to fight red tide impacts on Nov. 7 during the 10th U.S. Symposium on Harmful Algae in Orange Beach, Alabama.

The Initiative is a partnership between Mote—a 64-year nonprofit leader of independent and entrepreneurial marine science including decades of red tide research and monitoring—and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC’s) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute—the primary state-government entity focused on Florida red tide. Florida red tides are harmful algal blooms caused by higher-than-normal concentrations of Karenia brevis, microscopic algae native to the Gulf of Mexico. Florida red tide toxins can cause widespread mortality of fish and marine wildlife and cause respiratory irritation in people. The Initiative establishes an independent, coordinated effort among public and private research entities to develop prevention, control and mitigation technologies and approaches that will decrease Florida red tide impacts on the environment, economy and quality of life in Florida.

The new Initiative, 379.2273 Florida Statutes, was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in June 2019 and provides a $3-million appropriation for six years ($18-million total). There will be six opportunities for scientists to submit competitive grant proposals from 2019–2025, and applicants have the opportunity to partner with Mote scientists and utilize Mote facilities, infrastructure and technology.

Tampa Bay Water board continues work to secure the region's water future

Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors yesterday took actions to ensure the region has enough drinking water for at least the next 20 years.

As part of the regional supplier’s Long-term Master Water Plan, the board approved a contract for the administration of a regional demand management, or water conservation, program with Electric & Gas Industries Association. This program aims to save up to 11 million gallons per day (mgd) of water by 2030 and delay the need to build new supplies. Regional conservation costs about one-quarter of the cost of the cheapest new water source option.

“Saving water saves money. It delays the need for new supplies, which delays capital costs and new debt,” said Ken Herd, chief science and technical officer for Tampa Bay Water. “We understand that Tampa Bay area residents want us to do everything we can to save water before we develop a costly alternative.”

This rebate program includes eleven incentive opportunities for single-family homes, multi-family homes, commercial and industrial properties and new housing developments. The mix includes indoor and outdoor programs to best fit the needs of the current Tampa Bay area market.

DeSantis rolls out water quality website

With the state of the water a paramount issue in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis was at Lover's Key State Park on Fort Myers Beach Tuesday to tout a new website that folks can check to see the latest news on the safety of their water.

The website is ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov and it is up and running. It provides updates on water quality issues from red tide to algal bloom and health notifications.

The website currently focuses on three bodies of water, the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River. Eventually, it will include all of Florida's waterways, DeSantis said.

Southwest Florida residents can check the red tide along the Caloosahatchee River from here to Sanibel and Boca Grande. Currently, the map on Fort Myers Beach has a caution sign which states, "Red Tide Algae may be in these waters. Avoid this beach if you have chronic respiratory problems. Keep pets away from water and dead fish. Do not swim near or touch dead fish."

Red Tide back but not as bad -- so far

A Red Tide algae bloom that began off Collier County’s beaches in late September has been inching its way up the coast during October, killing fish and choking beachgoers. On Wednesday, state scientists said the algae was detected in “very low concentrations” off of Pinellas County.

The most recent tests show that the higher concentrations that constitute a bloom have reached an area near Venice, south of Sarasota.

“Bloom concentrations ... were observed in five samples from Sarasota County, two samples from Charlotte County, seven samples from and offshore of Lee County and nine samples from and offshore of Collier County,” the latest Red Tide report from the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

Reports of fish kills have come in from Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties, and people have reported breathing problems from the beaches in Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.

SWFWMD awards grants to Hillsborough County teachers for water resources education projects

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) awarded $119,000 in grants to 65 schools within the District as part of the Splash! school grant program. The program provides up to $3,000 per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources in grades K-12.

Splash! grants encourage hands-on student learning through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities as well as engagement of the greater school community through awareness campaigns. Each school district allocates a portion of their annual youth education funding provided by the District to support the Splash! grants in their county.

The District awarded grants to the following schools/teachers in Hillsborough County:

  • Colson Elementary - Jackie MacLean
  • Community Charter School of Excellence - Debra Gwyn
  • Dowdell Middle Magnet School - Candice LaRussa
  • Dr. Carter G. Woodson PK-8 - Candace Johnson Thornton
  • Dr. Carter G. Woodson PK-8 - Maria Carvalho
  • East Bay High School - Michelle Laycock
  • George M. Steinbrenner High School - Timothy B Harris
  • Heritage Elementary School - Susan Hopper
  • Inez Doby Elementary School - Pamela Vasquez
  • Jackson Elementary School - Elizabeth Damsel
  • Lawton Chiles Elementary - Linda Rosen
  • Learning Gate Community School - Adam Wolford
  • Pizzo K-8 School - Alyssa Mormon
  • Pride Elementary School - Lindsay Green
  • Robinson High School - Tiffany Oliver
  • South County Career Center - Ryan Lerch
  • Sulphur Springs K-8 Community School - Michael Wiggs
  • Terrace Community Middle School - Elizabeth Mila
  • Turner Bartels K-8 - Jennifer Cogan

Grants are available for freshwater resources field studies, water-conserving garden projects, community

SWFWMD awards grants to schools in Pinellas County for water resources education projects

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) awarded $119,000 in grants to 65 schools within the District as part of the Splash! school grant program. The program provides up to $3,000 per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources in grades K-12.

Splash! grants encourage hands-on student learning through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities as well as engagement of the greater school community through awareness campaigns. Each school district allocates a portion of their annual youth education funding provided by the District to support the Splash! grants in their county.

The District awarded grants to the following schools/teachers in Pinellas County:

  • Azalea Elementary - Heather Williamson
  • Madeira Beach Fundamental - Natasha Coles
  • Skyview Elementary - Diana Colwell
  • Walsingham Elementary - Tiffany Livingston

Grants are available for freshwater resources field studies, water-conserving garden projects, community or school awareness campaigns and on-site workshops. Last year’s Splash! grants brought water resources education to nearly 10,487 students throughout the District. For more information, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/SchoolGrants.      

St. Petersburg ordinance could require homeowners to replace leaky sewage pipes

St. Petersburg has been plagued by sewage spills since 2015, and now, part of the solution has some residents nervous that they might have to spend thousands to fix sewer pipes on their property.

The major spills -- in St. Petersburg's case, in 2015 and 2016 -- occur when heavy rains flow into cracked and leaking sewer pipes, a process called infiltration and intrusion. The problem peaked after the city shut down one of its sewage processing plants, leaving it with less capacity to process waste.

The city has since budgeted $300 million to repair its public pipes to comply with a state environmental consent order. Now it is turning to property owners, another requirement of the consent order.

“We're asking people to understand that not only is this required of us, what it's really hoping to do is make folks aware of this issue,” said Ben Kirby, the city's spokesman. “Now it's time to determine how much of that infiltration and intrusion problem rests with the citizens and work with them to get that problem fixed.”

St. Pete Beach leaders working on fix for high tide flooding in low lying neighborhoods

Flooding relief is on the way for people living in the Boca Ciega Isle neighborhood of St. Pete Beach.

Jodi McLean moved to the neighborhood nearly 10 years ago.

"You look around and you're in paradise," she said. "I live a mile and a half from The Gulf of Mexico, and there's water right across the street."

But there is one big issue that is costing McLean and her neighbors.

"The flooding is beyond annoying and aggravating," she said.

Boca Ciega is one of the low lying neighborhoods in St. Pete Beach. This means it floods when it rains, and during tidal surges, like "King Tide."

Hillsborough County officials ponder how to keep communities above water

To county officials, the headlines are the stuff of nightmares.

The waters in Tampa Bay could rise above today’s sea level by as much as 8.5 feet by 2100, one report says.

Just constructing the necessary sea walls will cost Hillsborough County an estimated $2.7 billion by 2040, another study found.

But it’s the safety of the people living here that keeps University of South Florida researchers up at night. That’s true even for those living far from the county’s coast line — the people asked to “shelter in place” in communities like Gibsonton and East Tampa that are well outside evacuation zones.

Most homes in those communities were built before Hurricane Andrew ushered in a wave of changes to state building codes. And their largely low-income population can’t afford to fortify those houses and may struggle to purchase enough supplies to ride out a storm.

Petitioners challenge Cortez Bridge decision

Opponents of the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) plans for the replacement of the Cortez Bridge have filed a petition for a formal administrative hearing before the State of Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings.

The petition is in response to FDOT’s written announcement on Oct. 10 that stated FDOT’s Office of Environmental Management granted location and design concept acceptance for the bridge replacement project that calls for a 65-foot-tall fixed-span bridge to someday replace the aging drawbridge on Cortez Road.

The FDOT acceptance signaled the end of the Project, Design and Environment (PD&E) study phase and allows the project to move into the design phase. Filed in accordance with Florida Statutes, the petition challenges that FDOT acceptance.

Former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash is serving as the qualified representative for the petitioners – a group that also includes former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, Cortez residents Linda Molto and Joe Kane, the ManaSota-88 organization, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and the Cortez Village Historical Society.

Von Hahmann signed and verified the notarized petition on Oct. 23.

SWFWMD aims to reduce risk of wildfires by scheduling prescribed fires for Hillsborough County

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 October through December on the Lower Hillsborough Flood Detention Area (LHFDA).

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.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires
  • Promoting plant diversity
  • 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. Click here to learn more about why igniting prescribed burns now prepares lands for the next wildfire season.  

Mote launches stone crab research, education project with new grant

Mote Marine Laboratory is launching a new research and education project aimed at examining which coastal habitats might help stone crabs—a $30-million seafood staple in Florida—survive the growing threat of ocean acidification, thanks to a new grant from Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund.

The $70,000 grant will be matched by Mote and support the latest of several Mote studies to shed light on the 30% decrease in Florida’s yearly stone crab catch since 2000. So far, Mote’s controlled lab studies point out that ocean acidification and high levels of Florida red tide can each have significant impacts on stone crabs throughout different stages of their life cycle.

Female stone crabs brood their eggs—carry them until hatching—in coastal environments vulnerable to ocean acidification (OA), a worldwide decrease in ocean water pH driven by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some coastal habitats in Florida are experiencing seasonal declines in pH estimated to be three times faster than the rate of OA anticipated for global oceans by the end of the century due to nutrient-rich runoff, a potential threat for sensitive coastal species.

Pinellas County votes to ban horseback riding in waters around Skyway Bridge

CLEARWATER — The sight of horses swimming through the waters near the Skyway Bridge will soon be a thing of the past. Pinellas County Commissioners voted Tuesday, passing an ordinance to protect the waters of Tampa Bay.

“We are a very pristine county,” said Commissioner Janet Long speaking at Tuesday night’s meeting. “It is very, very fragile. We only have one body of water to protect.”

County commissioners said they're worried horseback riding through Tampa Bay was contributing to higher than normal bacterial levels from horses pooping in the water, which could lead to human health risks and environmental damage. There were other concerns as well.

“They’re breaking up those seagrass beds and we need every bit that we have,” said one member of the public who stood up to speak at the meeting.

But, not everyone agreed. Many people said they feel like the county was overreacting and singling out a small number of horses when commissioners should be cracking down on much bigger offenders.

“To me, it’s kind of silly to worry about a little bit of horse poop when the city of St. Pete is pumping millions of gallons of sewage into the Bay,” said another public speaker.

In the end, commissioners approved the ordinance 5-1 for banning horseback riding in the water.

SWFWMD seeking volunteers for seagrass/water clarity observations

At the most recent meeting of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Technical Advisory Committee, Dr. Chris Anastasiou announced that the Southwest Florida Water Management District will begin conducting aerial seagrass surveys for the gulf coast (Levy to Charlotte counties) beginning this November.

Volunteer observers are needed to provide water clarity observations. Observers must be available on potential flight days to take a photo and report on water clarity conditions (>2m necessary) using a secchi disk or visual estimate. Observations should be taken every day and shared with the SWFWMD via web upload by 0830AM.

Please share within your networks and contact Chris with any questions if you are interested in helping with this important effort:

Cell: (813) 310-6809
Office: (813) 985-7481 x2029
Chris.anastasiou@swfwmd.state.fl

Anna Maria Island beach renourishment coming in 2020

An endless battle with Mother Nature continues: Sand in, sand out along Anna Maria Island’s shorelines.

Manatee County commissioners voted earlier this month to approve agreements advancing two beach renourishment projects in 2020 stretching on the shoreline from Holmes Beach to Bradenton Beach, then to Longboat Pass.

The county is partnering with the Army Corps of Engineering as the non-federal sponsor of the projects.

The so-called “central beach project” will stretch from 78th Street North in Holmes Beach to about Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach. Federal funding from the Corps will pay 59.05% of the cost and the remaining 40.95% will be split between the state and county.

The southern renourishment will begin at Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach and end at Longboat Pass. The cost for this phase will be split 50/50 between the state and county.

Most of the funds for the two projects — they will be combined to save money — will come from federal and state governments, but Manatee County’s tourist development tax is the local funding source.

Holmes Beach says ‘time will tell’ for Spring Lake improvement

Spring Lake in Holmes Beach is showing signs of improvement.

Minnows swam Oct. 10 near the surface of the lake and, though the water was brown, it no longer strongly smelled of sulfur. An aeration system was activated Sept. 17 to circulate stagnant water and infuse the lake with oxygen.

Upon activation of the system, the lake, surrounded by homes between 68th and 70th streets, became murky, smelly and more than 1,000 fish died, prompting complaints from lakeside residents and property owners.

Eran Wasserman, the city’s director of development services, said the city started running the aeration system around the clock Oct. 10, compared with six hours nightly for several weeks prior.

Wasserman said the city would test water quality at the end of the month and again in January.

However, he said the first test might be premature, as the lake requires time to recover.

“It just takes time to tell if it’s working,” Wasserman said. “We just have to wait and see.”