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

Water-Related News

USF, Florida welcome new research vessel R/V W. T. Hogarth

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When Bill Hogarth was told the Florida Institute of Oceanography's new research vessel was going to be named after him, he had a pretty reasonable – and funny – reaction.

“I said, ‘Somebody knows something I don’t know!’ I think, it’s (the naming) usually after you’re dead, I said, ‘I’m retired but I didn’t know I was dying at the same time!’”

The former institute director and one-time dean of the USF College of Marine – who is not dying – was among the first passengers on the R/V W. T. Hogarth as the state-of-the-art, 78-foot-long ship recently moved into its home port at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg on a recent wet and windy afternoon.

"It’s very hard to put into words, but knowing how much the students use this vessel, how much research is done with this vessel, makes you awfully proud to see your name on it and to know what it will be used for," said Hogarth.

The new craft replaces the almost fifty-year-old Bellows, which is beginning to show its age – in addition to the ship’s sanitation system no longer working, there are concerns about its seaworthiness.

Florida Chamber calls for science-based solutions to water issues

OKEECHOBEE — “Sound water science – not political science – is the way to secure the state’s water future,” said Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber.

“If you think about Florida’s future, more people are going to need more water,” he said.

“That means we need to focus on securing Florida’s water future.”

He said they don’t want Florida to end up with water shortages like California.

“Florida is adding 1,000 people a day,” he said. “We’re going to add six million more residents in Florida by 2030.

“By 2030 with population growth, we’re going to need 20 percent more water than we currently have available to us,” he said.

Last year the Florida chamber launched a series of educational videos about water issues. The first four videos focused on springs, Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys and the Indian River Lagoon.

“We reached out to a very diverse group of scientists, to people who care about protecting the environment,” he said.

On Nov. 8, at a press conference in Tallahassee that was broadcast live online, the Florida Chamber of Commerce unveiled its fifth in a series of water education videos which further demonstrates why following science-based research is important to securing Florida’s water future. The latest educational research video provides proof that septic tank problems are detrimentally impacting Florida’s water systems. The educational video highlights research produced by Florida Atlantic University–Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor Dr. Brian Lapointe, and sheds light on the algae blooms on the St. Lucie Estuary that followed unusually heavy rainfall in the winter and spring of 2016.

Free Kids’ Fishing Clinic promises day of learning, fun

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SARASOTA – Teaching children a lifelong hobby, instilling appreciation for our marine environment and providing fun, family outings are the objectives for the Kids’ Fishing Clinic in Sarasota on Nov. 18.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in conjunction with Florida Sea Grant will offer a free Kids’ Fishing Clinic for children between the ages of 5 and 15 from 9 a.m. to noon at Ken Thompson Park, 1700 Ken Thompson Parkway.

These free clinics enable young people to learn the basics of conservation stewardship, fishing ethics, angling skills and safety. Kids’ Fishing Clinics strive to achieve several goals, but the main objective is to create responsible marine-resource stewards by teaching children about the vulnerability of Florida’s marine ecosystems. In addition, organizers hope to teach fundamental saltwater fishing skills and provide participants a positive fishing experience.

Fishing equipment and bait are provided for kids to use during the clinic, but organizers encourage children who own fishing tackle to bring it. A limited number of rods and reels will be given away to participants upon completion of the clinic.

If conditions allow, participants will have the opportunity to practice their new skills and fish from the pier. This event is a photo catch-and-release activity. An adult must accompany all participants.

Individuals or companies interested in helping sponsor this event or volunteering at the clinic should contact Armando Ubeda with Florida SeaGrant UF/IFAS Extension at 941-861-9900 or the FWC’s Elizabeth Winchester at 850-617-9644.

Check your irrigation timer when you 'fall back' to Standard Time

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents to check the timers on their irrigation system controllers this weekend, which is the end of Daylight Saving Time.

Saturday night is when we will turn our clocks back one hour. The time change is also a good time to make sure irrigation system timers are set correctly to ensure that the systems operate consistently with year-round water conservation measures.

All 16 counties throughout the District’s boundaries are now on year-round water conservation measures, with lawn watering limited to twice-per-week unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours. Local governments maintaining once-per-week watering by local ordinance include Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties.

Know and follow your local watering restrictions, but don’t water just because it’s your day. Irrigate your lawn when it shows signs of stress from lack of water. Pay attention to signs of stressed grass:

  • Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on at least one-third of your yard.
  • Grass blades appear blue-gray.
  • Grass blades do not spring back, leaving footprints on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it

  • For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at

    Snook shindig catches valuable fisheries data

    More than 40 anglers participated in the 2017 William R. Mote Memorial Snook Shindig, a research-based catch, sample and release tournament on Nov. 3-4. This unique tournament involves the public in monitoring for snook released in fisheries enhancement studies.

    Snook are one of the most sought-after catches in Florida’s saltwater recreational fishing industry, which draws more than $7 billion to the economy annually. However, increased fishing pressure, habitat loss, and natural challenges such as cold weather and red tides have contributed to declines in snook populations. Thus, for more than 30 years, Mote Marine Laboratory and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) scientists have partnered in research designed to evaluate whether hatchery-raising and releasing snook into the wild can be an effective fishery management tool.

    “The Snook Shindig is the only scientific tournament in which anglers focus on hatchery-reared and wild common snook,” said Dr. Kenneth Leber, Mote Senior Scientist. “Our goal is to estimate the contribution of previously tagged-and-released snook to the Sarasota Bay snook fishery, and to learn valuable information such as how different habitats affect snook growth, survival and migration patterns. Our research and this important tournament can help us understand how stock enhancement may help this snook population recover from large mortalities in the wild.”

    Over decades, Mote scientists have released more than 61,000 snook into Sarasota-area waters. Past Snook Shindig results have revealed that changes in snook-release strategies, based on Mote pilot studies, have improved survival of stocked snook by as much as 200 percent.

    Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine visits Europe to study water issues

    Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine stood on a beach in the Netherlands facing the North Sea last week and watched as people walked along the sand.

    It was only three years ago that the beach near Amsterdam was under sea water because of unrelenting beach erosion. But thanks to a massive restoration effort, the beach is now an area where families relax, swim and fly kites.

    Beach restoration was one of the topics covered at a seven-day water-management conference hosted by the European Union that Constantine attended last week in three European countries.

    “We’re pouring sand onto our beaches and then losing them again,” he said. “But they’re doing things differently that will literally restore and maintain those beaches.”

    He thought about Florida’s coastlines, where recent hurricanes have eroded much of Volusia and Brevard counties’ beaches. Hurricane Matthew in 2016, for example, washed out nearly 2 million cubic feet of sand in those two counties and took out a chunk of State Road A1A in Ormond-By-The-Sea.

    Constantine was the only Florida representative among a dozen water policy experts from around the U.S. invited on the trip, funded by the EU. The group visited Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium, Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Helsinki, Finland, to exchange ideas and study EU policies regarding flooding, wastewater management, potable water and renewable energy.

    Irma dumped 19 billion gallons of water into Peace River basin

    SARASOTA COUNTY — The amount of rainfall that drenched Southwest Florida during Hurricane Irma highlights one of the reasons the regional water authority wants to expand its water storage capacity.

    The Peace River-Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority is owned by Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties and has a reservoir and wells to collect water from the Peace River in southern DeSoto County.

    But officials were shocked to see the total amount of water that flowed during the hurricane and could have been collected if the authority had more storage capacity, said Sarasota County Commissioner Alan Maio, who also leads the water authority’s board.

    “I will give you one sound bite which will startle you: During Irma, on Sept. 13, 19 billion gallons flowed past our reservoir and our wells and our intake pipes,” he told the rest of the County Commission.

    “That one day is slightly more than the two-year supply for the water authority,” he continued. “In one day, 19 billion gallons. I went back and had them give me the number again in writing.”

    The river’s occasional extraordinarily high water flow is part of the justification for the authority’s plans to continue to expand its reservoir and aquifer storage, which capture water during high flows — typically the summer rainy season — for use during drier times and can currently hold 12.5 billion gallons. The authority is developing plans to expand even further, potentially doubling storage, which could have taken advantage of Irma’s abundant rainfall, Maio said.

    “Storage, storage and more storage,” authority Executive Director Patrick Lehman said of the group’s goals earlier this year.

    FDEP issues violation notice for Cortez fishing structure

    It’s been on the water for decades, but state says Cortez building has to go

    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violation to a Cortez man, claiming he didn’t get permission to construct a 1,200-square-foot structure on Sarasota Bay.

    Since Raymond Guthrie Jr. was a child, he has seen the structure’s transformation with every rebuild. Once it was a place for anglers to store nets, and another time it was used to farm clams. As Guthrie started his most recent reconstruction project, which sits just yards away from A.P. Bell Fish Co., he said he wanted to use it as a net repair station and research facility for seagrass and mangroves.

    “I’ve been grandfathered in all my life,” said Guthrie, 68. “I don’t know what to say.”

    He said he submitted photos and documents to the state agency to prove that it fell under the Butler Act, which was passed in 1921 to encourage waterfront property improvements over submerged lands. He said he’s never had to acquire a permit for this type of work.

    “I don’t get what the big deal is about it,” he said. “It’s just one person.”

    After a complaint was filed against Guthrie in late May, drawing a verbal notification from the department and a compliance assistance letter, Guthrie’s representative Joanne Semmer agreed with the department that he would sign a consent order, according to the notice signed Oct. 19.

    Sea turtle nesting finishes strong on Longboat Key through Venice

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    Sea turtles laid a near-record number of nests from Longboat Key through Venice in 2017, report Mote Marine Laboratory scientists who monitor this 35-mile stretch of beaches each day of nesting season, May 1-Oct. 31.

    Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program and its Sea Turtle Patrol volunteers documented 4,503 nests from all sea turtle species across Mote’s patrol area in Sarasota County. Of those, 4,424 were laid by threatened loggerhead sea turtles and 79 by threatened green sea turtles. Two nests in the loggerhead group were sampled for genetic testing to determine if they are hybrids from a loggerhead and green mating.

    Though the total nest count did not surpass the record 4,588 nests in 2016, this year brought the highest-ever number of green sea turtle nests in Mote’s 36-year history of local sea turtle conservation. The combined loggerhead/green totals on Longboat, Lido and Siesta keys broke their individual records, while totals on Casey Key and Venice did not.

    “We’ve had several years of high nest counts, and though we can’t predict the future definitively, we don’t see any reason to expect a decrease,” said Melissa Bernhard, staff biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program. “We’re looking forward to 2018. These sea turtles nest every two to three years, so we’ll expect to see many of the turtles from the record year in 2016 returning.”

    Bernhard added: “The cool part about these high numbers is that we’re seeing a lot of new turtles.”

    During this year’s night-time tagging effort on Casey Key, Mote scientists encountered sea turtles 591 times — identifying 380 distinct individuals. Of those individuals, 293 were “neophytes” documented and tagged for the first time. It’s not clear whether these turtles are young females that recently matured or whether they’ve previously gone “under the radar,” nesting on nearby beaches without tagging programs.

    In any case, this year’s results continue an encouraging trend.

    Florida bill could require sea-level-rise studies for publicly funded buildings

    As sea levels continue to rise, Florida has taken a licking for its bad habit of climate-ignorant development.

    But despite warnings from the state's most brilliant and respected scientists, Gov. Rick Scott has more or less disregarded the issue, infamously banning the Department of Environmental Protection from using the term "climate change" in 2015. And though national publications such as Scientific American have taken developers to task for their reluctance to stop building along the coast, state law does little to discourage the practice.

    State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez wants to change that. Last week, he filed a bill that would require contractors to conduct what's called a sea-level impact projection study on state-funded buildings near the coastline. Before the first shovel hits the ground, builders would have to publish the results — even if they show the building could be underwater in a few years.