An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

South Venice residents focus on water quality at Alligator Creek Nature Festival

Nearly 275 South Venice residents gathered at South Venice Yacht Club to focus on water quality in Alligator Creek important for sustaining fish, wildlife, and quality of life for residents. Sarasota County hosted this first ever event focused on Alligator Creek with environmental partners Science and Environment Council, Venice Area Audubon Society, Venice Area Beautification Inc., Sarasota Bay Watch, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program and UF/IFAS.

“We all love Florida coastal living and want to be good neighbors to our natural creeks and bays. This was a really fun event for neighbors to get together and learn about how to connect with and protect the beauty and adventure in their own back yard,” said Jennifer Shafer, executive director of science and environment council.

Neighborhood old-timers and newcomers alike met and mingled with environmental scientists and citizen volunteers from local environmental organizations to learn about the creek and how to protect it, all while enjoying barbecue burgers and live music. About 60 residents paddled out to explore the creek, many for the very first time, on free guided kayak tours with WayneAdventures.

“This is the first time we’ve had a chance to kayak here in our own neighborhood”, reported Erik and Robin Jensen who live across from Alligator Creek. “I just learned that the fish out in the Gulf, they start here in the mangroves. This is their nursery area.”

Stone crab larvae perish from red tide, but bloom intensity matters

Mote scientists and Pitzer College partners aimed to better understand how newly hatched larvae might be affected by a bloom of Florida red tide (Karenia brevis) persisting into the stone crabs’ summer reproductive season. K. brevis blooms typically occur in the Gulf of Mexico from early fall into spring but can last a year or more — as did the severe bloom from late 2017 into early 2019.

This study is the latest of several Mote projects investigating multiple stressors to stone crabs, with the goal of better understanding the 25% decrease in southwest Florida’s yearly stone crab catch since 2000 and informing resource managers working to help the fishery rebound. The study was supported by grants to Mote from The Steinwachs Family Foundation and The National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduate program.

“Our previous research suggests that sublegal stone crabs, whose claws are nearing legal harvest size, have a short window of tolerance for elevated concentrations of Florida red tide algae and begin to die off when that window is exceeded,” said Mote Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Phil Gravinese. “This is one possible way that red tide might reduce the catch rate. Alternatively, severe and prolonged blooms that overlap with the crabs’ summer reproductive season might be reducing the number of offspring, or larvae, that are available to recruit into the fishery.”

‘Gumbo’ of blue-green algae stinks up Manatee and Sarasota beaches

Last year, when a persistent Red Tide algae bloom touched all three of Florida's coasts, Southwest Florida had to put up with it the longest. The toxic algae stuck around Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee county beaches for months on end, driving away tourists and depositing dead fish galore on the shore.

Now a new algae bloom is threatening some of those same beaches. It's not Red Tide. It's a type of blue-green algae known as "Lyngbya," which has long caused problems in the state's springs.

It might give swimmers a rash, but it doesn't kill anything but your appetite.

"It makes you want to go inside and close your windows and turn on your air conditioning, because it stinks," Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth, granddaughter of the city’s namesake, John “Jack” Holmes Sr., said this week.

EPA releases guidance on cyanotoxins

OCAlerts logo

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued final Recommended Recreational Ambient Water Quality Criteria or Swimming Advisories for two Cyanotoxins, Microcystins and Cylindrospermopsin. EPA has identified recommended concentrations of these cyanotoxins at or below which human health is protected while swimming or participating in other recreational activities in and on the water. States, territories, and authorized tribes can consider adopting these recommended criteria into their water quality standards and using them for Clean Water Act purposes. Alternatively, they can use these same values as the basis of swimming advisories for public notification purposes at recreational waters. The recommended criteria or swimming advisories are based on peer-reviewed, published science and methods.

EPA is also providing information on the latest scientific knowledge about human health effects from exposure to cyanobacteria, discussion of other governmental guidelines for recreational waters, and incidents involving exposure of pets and other animals to cyanotoxins.  More information on these recommendations can be found at this link.

EPA is publishing the recommendations for microcystins and cylindrospermopsin, two of the toxins associated with cyanobacterial HABs, under Clean Water Act section 304(a). Learn more about cyanobacterial HABs and how the EPA, states, territories and tribes are working to address them on the newly redesigned EPA Cyanobacterial HABs website. EPA updated and reorganized its online information about cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (CyanoHABs) in water bodies, creating a new website dedicated to scientific information, EPA tools, and collaborative work on cyanoHABs in U.S. waters.

On the updated website, EPA has also published new infographics that state and local governments can use to communicate basic information about HABs to the public. The infographics highlight how a HAB may affect both people and animals, and provide information concerning how to identify and respond to a potential bloom. Downloadable and printable versions of the infographics are available at this link; one as a more detailed poster for display and another as an abbreviated handout. State, tribal and local governments may also customize the infographics by adding their logo and website address or telephone number.

Florida's dirty water tops list of woes for new chief science officer

Florida's ongoing water woes tops the list of problems to be tackled by the state's new chief science officer.

In his first press briefing Friday, Tom Frazer, an aquatic ecologist and director of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida, said he plans on convening a new blue green algae task force in early June. Armed with money newly approved by lawmakers, the group plans to find smaller projects that might have a more immediate fix for water quality issues in and around Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

"We do have a number of available funds to implement projects in [drainage basins] and we need to prioritize those and move forward on the best ones possible," Frazer said.

In April, Gov. Ron DeSantis named Frazer the state's first chief science officer to help address spiraling environmental issues. Algae blooms now regularly foul the Treasure Coast and Caloosahatchee estuary, and pollution has worsened water quality in Central Florida springs and South Florida's Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay. DeSantis has pledged to spend $2.5 billion over the next four years to improve water and earlier this month, lawmakers approved a budget that included $682 million in spending over the next year. 

North Port works on plan to expand city sewer

When General Development Corp. established the subdivision that became the city of North Port in 1959, much of the land had already been subdivided into 80-foot by 120-foot lots.

Those lots — all platted prior to a 1972 state law that mandated new subdivisions be hooked up to central water and sewer facilities — have left a legacy of 28,322 potential residences that have a vested right to use well and septic systems instead of waiting for city water and sewer, as well as 16,332 occupied parcels that are on well and septic systems.

In contrast, there are 11,158 parcels of land on water and sewer. Many of those are in subdivisions platted after 1972, such as Heron Creek, Gran Paradiso and Island Walk.

But, if water and sewer lines are available, homes built on those 28,322 lots would connect without the extra expense of first digging wells and septic systems.

“Every year you wait, more homes get septic tanks and that impacts the problem, compounds it,” said assistant utilities director Jennifer Desrosiers of any delay in connecting areas to central utilities.

On May 6, city officials hosted their second workshop this year on developing a plan to expand water and sewer to virtually all properties within the city limits.

Nurdle Patrol looks for plastic pellets on Florida's beaches

People are searching for small pieces of plastic called nurdles on local beaches.

"Nurdles are very small. They're called pelletized plastics. They're smaller than your pinky finger tip. They're about the size of a lentil. They're typically melted down to make larger plastic products," said Maya Burke with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Maya Burke, a Science Policy Coordinator with Tampa Bay Estuary Program, found 2 nurdles on a beach near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

"I have been looking for nurdles since February of this year. We've been helping some of our partners with Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve," said Maya Burke.

New wrinkles in canal plan have Longboat leaders looking at options

It might be a while before a dredge crew can begin moving through the town’s public canals, but last summer’s red tide outbreak could end up playing a role in cutting the cost of the project.

Plans have been discussed for at least three years, and consultant Taylor Engineering Inc. updated town commissioners in April 2017 on the town’s Canal Dredging Feasibility Study.

At the time, the consultant identified 16 of the Key’s canals as “priority canals,” or those most in need of dredging to a depth of 3 feet below mean low water. This list included Canal 1A, which connects the lagoon of Greer Island to Sarasota Bay. That number was later revised to 14 canals and the Greer Island Beneficial Use Project, aimed at opening better access between Sarasota Bay and the lagoon along Greer Island, was identified. Material would be added to the gulf-side of the island to help bulk it up against wave action and erosion. 

New algal bloom in county waters sparks health concerns among residents

It was another warm, sunny day for Annie Howell — another day spent pouring draft beers and serving patrons at the outdoor Casey Key Fish House tiki bar, located just off the water at Blackburn Point Park.

And thankfully, on this particular Friday, the stink of the brown clumps in the water wasn’t driving away any more of her customers.

“It’s been terrible. It smells like raw sewage,” she said of the algae floating nearby. “Fortunately, [the customers] don’t notice it as much as I do, because I’m here for 12 hours. I’m a little bit more subjected to it.”

North Port Takes 3rd place in national water conservation competition

City of North Port Wins Third Place in Wyland National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation

The Wyland Foundation announced that the City of North Port achieved third place as the most “Water Wise” in the nation for cities with populations of 30,000 - 99,999 residents.

City of North Port Mayor Christopher Hanks along with City Commission accepted the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation on April 9th and encouraged residents to “Take the Pledge” online at www.MyWaterPledge.com. The annual challenge, which took place from April 1- 30, is a non-profit national community service campaign that encourages leaders to inspire their residents to make a series of simple pledges at www.mywaterpledge.com to use water more efficiently, reduce pollution, and save energy.

Mayor Hanks stated, “Our City takes environmental conservation and preservation seriously. The results of the Wyland Challenge are not a surprise, but certainly a welcomed honor. We are pleased to be ranked with the top cities across the country that are dedicated to our natural resources, especially water, which is the lifeblood of our community and quality of life."

North Port residents took 6,843 pledges resulting in a water savings of 28.3 million gallons of water! Additional results generated by North Port pledges resulted in the reduction of 1,616 pounds of hazardous waste from entering watersheds, 790,864 fewer pounds of landfills, and a carbon dioxide reduction of 124.9 million pounds.

The 8th National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation was presented by the Wyland Foundation and Toyota, with support from the U.S EPA WaterSense, The Toro Company, National League of Cities, Conserva Irrigation, EcoSystems Inc., and Earth Friendly Products (makers of ECOS).

About the Wyland Foundation: Founded in 1993 by environmental artist Wyland (best known for his series of 100 monumental marine life murals), the Wyland Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving the world’s ocean, waterways, and marine life. The foundation encourages environmental awareness through community events, education programs, and public art projects.

Shark fishing under scrutiny for Venice City Pier

Changes to shark-fishing rules to take effect July 1 have the Venice City Council revisiting whether it’s appropriate from the city’s pier.

Renovation of the structure, which was damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017, began Monday. Access is limited now, with the entire pier to be closed soon. Work will take about 90 days.

“I can’t see opening the pier without having proper regulations in place,” Mayor John Holic said.

The exact language of the new rules the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved in February hasn’t been released yet, but the basics are known.

They include:

  • A mandatory, no-cost, annual shore-based shark fishing permit for all shore-based shark anglers age 16 and older. A pier is treated as an extension of the land.
  • Prohibiting chumming when fishing for any species from the beach.
  • Requiring the immediate release of a prohibited shark species when fishing from the shore. There are 14 species permitted to be caught but 27 that are prohibited.
  • Requiring that prohibited shark species remain in the water when caught from shore or from a vessel. Because catch-and-release is difficult from a raised structure, the Commission recommends that it not be allowed from a pier.

The Council discussed shark fishing from the pier in late 2017 after reports about chumming attracting sharks to an area where people were swimming or kayaking.

Could global warming lead to quieter hurricane seasons? Experts say yes, with a caveat

If there is any positive to come out of global warming it could be this: Its effects may work to reduce the number of Atlantic hurricanes we see in the future, according to the nation’s leading storm scientists.

That comes with a (significant) caveat. Experts say warming-induced sea level rise means the wall of water that surges into coastal areas during hurricanes will get more deadly and destructive with each storm that hits, especially in places like south Louisiana.

Hurricane experts gathered in New Orleans from Monday to Thursday last week for the National Hurricane Conference, an event focused on hurricane preparedness. The closing panel on Wednesday (April 24) focused on storm forecasting and our changing climate.

Dr. Christopher Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, noted hurricanes “are natural heat engines,” relying on moisture and heat to grow. One might assume global warming would boost the strength and frequency of storms. But models show global warming may actually increase the speed and dryness of trade winds that cut across the lower Caribbean and into the Atlantic Ocean, a factor that could work to “tear hurricanes apart” in the future, he said.

Trump to ease drilling rules sparked by 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill

The Trump administration is poised to relax offshore drilling requirements imposed in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 people in 2010 and unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The Interior Department will unveil its final plan Thursday to ease some of the mandates, following industry complaints they are unwieldy and expensive, said two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named before a formal announcement. The White House Office of Management and Budget said it had completed a review of the drafted regulation on Monday, clearing it for a final release.

The measure is set to ease requirements for real-time monitoring of offshore operations and mandated third-party certifications of emergency equipment that can be summoned as a last resort to block explosive surges of oil and gas flowing up from wells. Many of the final changes were already outlined in a proposal released last year.

Trump administration officials previously cast the changes as a surgical revision of the Obama-era rule, arguing the rewrite would better align with voluntary industry standards, decrease downtime on rigs and lead to more than $900 million in oil industry savings over the next decade.

Lawmakers introduce bill forcing EPA to set legal limit for all PFAS in drinking water

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House today would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set a health-protective legal limit in drinking water for the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, which contaminate a rapidly growing roster of hundreds of public water systems nationwide.

The Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act (H.R. 2377), authored by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), would amend the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to require EPA chief Andrew Wheeler to set a Maximum Contaminant Level, or MCL, for all PFAS chemicals within two years. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Dan Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

There are currently no federally enforceable standards for PFAS chemicals in drinking water. In February, Wheeler released the Trump administration’s toothless “PFAS Action Plan,” which failed to set a clear timeline for implementing a drinking water MCL for PFAS chemicals.

“If the EPA won’t do its job and help communities stop the flow of PFAS-contaminated water into homes, schools and businesses, Congress must force them to act,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “Refusing to tackle this drinking water crisis head-on, while millions of Americans are being exposed to these dangerous chemicals, clearly shows the Trump administration will not clean up this mess unless it’s forced to by law.”

New EPA document tells communities to brace for climate change impacts

The Environmental Protection Agency published a 150-page document this past week with a straightforward message for coping with the fallout from natural disasters across the country: Start planning for the fact that climate change is going to make these catastrophes worse.

The language, included in guidance on how to address the debris left in the wake of floods, hurricanes and wildfires, is at odds with the rhetoric of the EPA’s own leader, Andrew Wheeler. Just last month, Wheeler said in an interview with CBS that “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”

Multiple recent studies have identified how climate change is already affecting the United States and the globe. In the western United States, for example, regional temperatures have increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s, and snowmelt is occurring a month earlier in areas, extending the fire season by three months and quintupling the number of large fires. Another scientific paper, co-authored by EPA researchers, found that unless the United States slashes carbon emissions, climate change will probably cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars annually by 2100.

Has a Longboat Key retiree solved the puzzle of the red tide?

Not every Longboat senior spends lazy days playing golf and lounging by the pool. Since he retired to the key in 2002, after a long career at General Electric Aircraft Engines, Lenny Landau has earned a reputation for deep dives into complex issues affecting the region. Dubbed “the data king of Longboat Key” by an island newspaper, the determined 76-year-old mechanical engineer has immersed himself in white papers, scientific abstracts and studies most of us would find dry and daunting, learning about topics from beach erosion to sewer systems. He says he likes to reflect on his research and “put the puzzle together” while riding his bike along Gulf of Mexico Drive or walking his 160-pound English mastiff.

The puzzle that has consumed Landau for the past several years is red tide. A few months ago, he talked about his findings at a seminar at USF Sarasota-Manatee that was presented in partnership with the Global Interdependence Center and Cumberland Advisors. Landau likes to stress that he is not a scientist, but seminar moderator and meteorologist Bob Bunting, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist, says Landau has done something scientists haven’t done—and aren’t meant to do. “Their mission is discoveries, and not translation and application,” says Bunting. “Landau has unearthed the puzzle pieces, many buried here and there, and put them together in a way that people can understand and begin to act on.”

About two years ago, Landau began studying the possible effects of climate change—particularly sea level rise—on our region. As serious as such issues are, he says, people tend to avoid dealing with them because they think they won’t suffer dire consequences during their lifetimes. But when he came across research linking climate change to red tide, he realized this was an issue that was already impacting us.

Sarasota County reminds beach-goers to keep light out of sight

As summer approaches and trips to the beach become more frequent, Sarasota County is reminding all visitors and residents to keep light out of sight during sea turtle nesting season.

Sarasota County beaches play host to the largest population of nesting sea turtles on the Gulf Coast of Florida, with over 200 nests per mile.

According to Sarasota County Wildlife Specialist Jaclyn Irwin, the biggest threats to sea turtle survival are often man-made. Artificial lighting, beach furniture, coastal structures and indigestible plastic all pose serious threats, she said.

"Only one out of every 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood. Each year thousands of hatchlings die from predation, exhaustion and starvation due to the disorientation caused by bright, artificial lights," Irwin added.

Sarasota County regulates beachfront lighting and storage of recreational items such as beach furniture. Activities disruptive to sea turtles are prohibited during nesting season, from May 1 through Oct. 31.  

‘You can call him our water czar’: Nikki Fried names Florida’s new water policy director

Florida's got a new "water czar," agriculture commissioner Nicole "Nikki" Fried announced Wednesday.

Chris Pettit, who has worked for years in water management districts and county water utilities, will replace Steve Dwinell, who retired as water policy director for the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Agricultural Water Policy.

Fried said Pettit and his office will work to develop and implement best management practices, known as BMPs, for agriculture. BMPs, which have been criticized in the past for not being enforced, aim at lowering and maintaining nutrient runoff from farming operations. The nutrient runoff is a key source in the development of the red tide and blue-green algae that choked Florida's coasts and waterways last summer.

From Tampa to Sarasota, businesses find ways to conserve water

Not everyone sees sunshine on a rainy day, but a Whole Foods market in Sarasota does.

"Florida is very concerned about water use and trying to conserve water," said John Bauer of Wahaso, a water harvesting solutions company.

Wahaso installed a large silver cylinder on one side of the Whole Foods building.

"It's designed to basically to look attractive and also be very functional in storing rainwater for us from the rooftop," explained Bauer.

The rooftop rainwater goes through a filtering system before it's used for irrigation of the property.

Price tag for Sarasota water quality improvements: $310 million

County officials delivered sobering statistics about pollutant levels in area waterways while providing an astonishing price tag to upgrade wastewater treatment plants

SARASOTA COUNTY — County officials on Wednesday delivered sobering statistics to the Sarasota County Commission about seagrass death and pollutant levels in area waterways while providing an equally astonishing price tag to upgrade its three wastewater treatment plants — one of which is the subject of a lawsuit for illegally spewing millions of gallons of treated wastewater for years from an overwhelmed holding pond.

While presenting its proposed Water Quality Improvement Program to the commission, county staffers said six area bays, including Sarasota and Lemon bays, have lost a combined 771 acres of seagrass — an important species to help determine the overall health of coastal ecosystems — from 2016 to 2018. Levels of the nutrient nitrogen in Sarasota Bay have steadily crept upward, from just over .2 milligrams per liter in 1998 to around .4 in 2019. While that is still low, it is a noticeable trend, county staffers said, adding that the boost could have an effect on the dying seagrass.

The cost for upgrading three wastewater treatment plants to what is known as “advanced wastewater treatment” facilities to reduce nutrient pollution will be “significant” — between $70 million and $90 million — warned Michael Mylett, the county’s interim public utilities director.

Different type of blue-green algae reeks along Lemon Bay shore

Disgusting brown gunk lining the shore at a popular spot in Charlotte County as it is driving people away from the water. State environmental officials tested the weird goop over the weekend.

You can smell it before you see it.

Kim Preedom caught wind of rotten-like stench, stretching several miles along the Lemon Bay shore.

“I noticed it as we drove up,” Preedom said. “It smells like decaying vegetation.”

An underwater view of the gunk, which the Department of Environmental Protection identified as Lyngbya wollei, a blue-green algae, shows it is different than the type found in Lake Okeechobee.

“It blows all of this sludge type stuff from the bay onto the beaches,” said Byron Reber, a visitor to Lemon Bay Sunrise Park. “I would certainly not go into the water.”

The Florida Department of Health said that is a good idea because the cyanobacteria can cause skin and respiratory irritation. It can also be dangerous if pets drink the water.

NASA grant lets utilities and partners use space agency data in planning

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has awarded a $1.7 million grant to Tampa Bay Water and other water-related organizations in Florida to adapt NASA satellite products for use in planning by utilities.

Tampa Bay Water, the wholesale water supply utility for the Tampa Bay region, is expected to use the NASA data as part of its decision-making on allocating water resources, such as the use of a 15.5-billion-gallon reservoir in Hillsborough County.

And the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, which serves a similar role in the Sarasota region, would do the same for the operations of its aquifer storage and recovery wells, according to a news release by the University of Florida.

The grant recipients are all members of the Florida Water and Climate Alliance, co-founded by Tampa Bay Water. The alliance has been working for more than a decade with the University of Florida's Water Institute and Florida State University's Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies to use good science in making water-supply decisions.

Florida's new chief science officer started off as a surfer dude

Florida's new chief science officer didn't start out as a scientist. Instead he was a surfer dude.

Thomas Frazer, named to the post created by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month, was born and raised in the quintessential surf city of San Diego. When he was 8, he bought his first board — a Lightning Bolt — and spent as much time riding the waves as he could.

That's what led him to become an expert on water pollution.

"It seemed like I was on the water every day," he told an interviewer in 2016. "When you are a surfer, you learn about water quality at an early age. You know that when you get an earache after surfing, that it is probably because of runoff."

Frazer, 54, is the director of the University of Florida's School of Natural Resources and Environment and has a Ph.D. in biological science from the University of California. He will continue to hold that $176,775-a-year position while also occupying the $148,000-a-year science officer post. Experts say it appears to be the first such state-level position in the nation.

New EPA document tells communities to brace for climate change impacts

The Environmental Protection Agency published a 150-page document this past week with a straightforward message for coping with the fallout from natural disasters across the country: Start planning for the fact that climate change is going to make these catastrophes worse.

The language, included in guidance on how to address the debris left in the wake of floods, hurricanes and wildfires, is at odds with the rhetoric of the EPA’s own leader, Andrew Wheeler. Just last month, Wheeler said in an interview with CBS that “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”

Multiple recent studies have identified how climate change is already affecting the United States and the globe. In the western United States, for example, regional temperatures have increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s, and snowmelt is occurring a month earlier in areas, extending the fire season by three months and quintupling the number of large fires. Another scientific paper, co-authored by EPA researchers, found that unless the United States slashes carbon emissions, climate change will probably cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars annually by 2100.

Aquaculture Braintrust Farms clams in Florida’s Tampa Bay

In the midst of a Florida field beseeched with palmettos and pines, Two Docks Shellfish is not your typical Gulf aquaculture business. A lawyer, a PhD, a Master and a biologist comprise the brain trust running the successful Bradenton clamming and oyster aquaculture operation.

Aaron Welch, III comes from a long line of Aarons. He and his father, Aaron Welch, Jr., started the clamming operations in 2014 after he attended a seminar featuring a session on aquaculture.

“After serving for five years as the navigation officer aboard a US Navy guided missile destroyer, I got out of the military searching for a direction to my life,” he said sitting in the companies office housed in metal outbuilding. “I attended a session with a speaker talking about aquaculture. I was just blown away. I sitting at the back of the room, I got up and made my way to the front. I got out of that presentation and called my wife and said, ‘I know what I am going to do with my life.’”

The speaker was University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Professor Daniel Benetti. Already a graduate of Emory University Law School, Welch went on to study aquaculture under Benetti where he received his Ph.D.

Turn out the lights, it's nesting season for Florida sea turtles

May marks the beginning of sea turtle nesting season on many of Florida’s sandy beaches. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking beachfront property owners and beach visitors to help nesting turtles and hatchlings by turning off or shielding lights that are visible from the beach at night.

 “Making an effort to keep our beaches dark at night is one of the most important things you can do to help sea turtles.” said Robbin Trindell, head of the FWC sea turtle management program. “Even small artificial lights from a house, a flashlight or a cellphone camera can confuse female sea turtles and their hatchlings and cause them to wander off course.”

Sea turtle nesting is starting now on beaches along the Gulf coast, including the Florida Panhandle, as well as the state’s northeast Atlantic coast and from Miami-Dade County south to the Keys. Nesting began earlier in March along Florida’s southeast Atlantic coast from Brevard County south to Broward County.

Florida is a critically important destination for nesting sea turtles. More loggerhead turtles nest here than anywhere else in the continental United States, with 91,451 loggerhead nests counted statewide during the 2018 nesting season. Leatherback and green sea turtles also nest in significant numbers in Florida.

Study demonstrates seagrass' strong potential for curbing erosion

Most people’s experience with seagrass, if any, amounts to little more than a tickle on their ankles while wading in shallow coastal waters. But it turns out these ubiquitous plants, varieties of which exist around the world, could play a key role in protecting vulnerable shores as they face onslaughts from rising sea levels.

New research for the first time quantifies, through experiments and mathematical modelling, just how large and how dense a continuous meadow of seagrass must be to provide adequate damping of waves in a given geographic, climatic, and oceanographic setting.

In a pair of papers appearing in the May issues of two research journals, Coastal Engineering and the Journal of Fluids and Structures, MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering Heidi Nepf and doctoral student Jiarui Lei describe their findings and the significant environmental benefits seagrass offers. These include not only preventing beach erosion and protecting seawalls and other structures, but also improving water quality and sequestering carbon to help limit future climate change.

It’s all at sea: new clues to coastal erosion

New research has uncovered a missing nutrient source in coastal oceans, which could promote better water quality and sand management on popular beaches.

While the release of nutrients buried in the seabed ‘feeds’ coastal marine ecosystems, the latest research at Flinders University has found a new physical mechanism which erodes seabed sediment at depths up to 20 metres, well outside (between 10km and 20km) from the surf zone closer to shore.

This powerful natural process that is energetic enough to erode seabed sediment at up to 20 m, also adds to the nutrients stirred and moved by breaking surface waves nearer the beach, according to the new hydrodynamic modelling.

“This new knowledge has significant implications for coastal sediment management practices such as dredging,” says Flinders University oceanographer Associate Professor Jochen Kaempf.

Climate change is a community issue

Southwest Floridians believe the time is now to conquer climate change.

"We believe we have an issue with water, and climate change is here in Southwest Florida," said Eileen Connolly-Keesler, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County. " and we are all just saying we can't sit back here and do nothing."

Organizations from Lee and Collier counties are teaming up to form a three-year partnership to help address the region's changing environment.

The Community Foundation of Collier County, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Florida Gulf Coast University and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida joined forces to align resources to address these time-sensitive issues.

"Look at the strengthening storms we're seeing, look at the flooding we're seeing, look at what's happening with red tide and blue-green algae," Connolly-Keesler said.

"The whole premise is we really need to spend time to educate the community on what climate change is doing to Southwest Florida. And that we can all be part of the solution."

Sarasota based Crystal Clean Green Cleaning nominated for Sustainable Business Award

The Sustany Foundation announced Crystal Clean Green Cleaning as a nominee for the 2019 Sustainable Business Awards at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business (USF). The Sustany Foundations mission is to enhance the quality of life of the Tampa Bay community by promoting sustainability by means of education, programs, investments, and exchange of ideas.

2019 marks the 11th year the Sustainable Business Awards are being held to honor companies and organizations in Tampa Bay that embrace the triple bottom line which is: Social Responsibility, environmental stewardship, and economic impact (people, planet, and profit).

Winners on the awards will be announced May 22nd, 2019 at Tampa's premier green and sustainable business award ceremony, a Green Carpet Gala, at the Tampa Theatre.

"We do our best on a daily basis to run a sustainable, green, and eco-friendly business while still providing outstanding service and leaving a positive impact in the lives we touch," says co-owner and C.O.O. Steven Pajevic, he adds, "We are thrilled when someone notices what we do, appreciates it and the hard work that goes into it, and goes as far as to acknowledge it – wow!"

Public, media excluded from upcoming Rooney roundtable on toxic algae blooms at FGCU

The public is shut out of a multi-agency roundtable on harmful algae blooms U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, is organizing at FGCU on May 7, and the event will not be live-streamed.

The meeting is to discuss responses to the devastating dual algae emergencies last year: red tide along the coast and cyanobacteria blooms in freshwater.

Participants include officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Florida departments of emergency management, environmental protection and economic opportunity as well as Lee and Collier counties, the cities of Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Sanibel and Bonita Springs, the village of Estero, Lee Health and FGCU.

Members of the media are shut out as well. Once the event ends, Rooney will host a press conference.

As for why those citizens who fund those agencies can neither attend nor watch the event live, Rooney spokesman Christopher Berardi said some of the groups "confirmed with the condition they would be coming only if (the public was excluded) ... I didn't organize this," adding he would have to check into it further.

Army Corps responds to Lido Beach lawsuit

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is denying allegations by a group of Siesta Key residents who claim the federal agency broke the law by failing to conduct a crucial study to examine how a contentious dredging project to renourish eroded Lido Beach could potentially harm Siesta Key.

In a formal response last month to a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Save Our Siesta Sands 2, the Army Corps refuted assertions that the project violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. The federal agency also asked a judge to toss out the case, while claiming a Final Environmental Assessment, which is not as comprehensive as an Environmental Impact Statement, provided a sufficient analysis of the project’s potential effects.

“Defendant denies that plaintiff is entitled to the requested relief or any relief from this court and requests that this action be dismissed with prejudice, that judgment be entered in favor of defendant and that defendant be allowed its costs and such other and further relief as the court may allow,” court documents from the Army Corps’ April 1 response state.

Save Our Siesta Sands 2 in January filed the suit against the Corps in an attempt to block the controversial project after the federal agency ignored a request from the citizens group to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to address economic and environmental concerns about the plan to dredge Big Pass to rebuild Lido Beach. The 60-day notice filed late last year initiated a two-month period in which the Corps could have remedied the issue raised by the group or face litigation if it refused.

Ron DeSantis announces newly-formed Blue-Green Algae Task Force

Gov. Ron DeSantis has placed a special emphasis on Florida's environment since taking office, and Monday was one more step in the direction to clean up the state's waterways.

At the Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, DeSantis named the five members of the state's newly-formed Blue-Green Algae Task Force.

"The focus of this task force is to support key funding and restoration initiatives and make recommendations to expedite nutrient reductions in Lake Okeechobee and downstream estuaries," DeSantis said.