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

Water-Related News

Sarasota County to host flood zone workshops

Sarasota County will host a series of educational flood zone workshops throughout 2018 at several county libraries.

The workshops are intended to educate residents, lenders and insurance and real estate agents about flood risks, zones, maps, regulations and mandatory insurance purchase requirements. Attendees will also find out why flood zone maps are continuously updated.

All workshops are from 10:15 a.m. to noon, and no registration is required. Some upcoming workshop dates and locations include:

  • Selby Library, 1331 First St., Sarasota: Jan. 23, Feb. 13, May 8

  • Elsie Quirk Library, 100 Dearborn St., Englewood: Jan. 24, March 29

  • North Port Library, 13800 Tamiami Trail, North Port: Jan. 30, Feb. 20, March 20, April 17

  • Fruitville Library, 100 Coburn Road, Sarasota: Feb. 15, April 4

  • Jacaranda Library, 4143 Woodmere Park Blvd., Venice: Feb. 22, March 15

  • Gulf Gate Library, 7112 Curtiss Ave., Sarasota: March 6

To see the full list of 2018 workshops or for more information, visit scgov.net/floodprotection or call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

Finally, some good red tide news. But not everyone is so lucky

There’s good news and bad news, depending on where you live.

The bloom of red tide that had lingered on the Gulf Coast over the past few months has recently honed a laser focus on Charlotte and Lee counties, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s report released Friday.

There was no presence of the Karenia brevis organism in water samples taken off Manatee County’s shores this week. Sarasota County shared that fortune except for a “very low” reading at Venice South Jetty, meaning that there were between 1,000 and 10,000 K. brevis cells per liter of water. A “very low” result can mean the possibility of respiratory irritation and can close shellfish harvesting at more than 5,000 cells per liter.

Medium concentrations, which denotes the presence of 100,000 to 1 million cells per liter, were recorded at Sandfly Key and Bull Key in Charlotte County, and in several locations in Lee County from Cayo Pelau to Buck Key. A high concentration was found in a water sample at Jug Creek Point, according to the report.

University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, which contributes to red tide forecasts, predicts a stronger bloom presence in Charlotte County.

Mote Marine Laboratory’s daily beach report collects data on 29 beaches from Caladesi Island to Marco Island. On Friday, the only location that reported slight respiratory irritation was Manasota Beach in Venice. FWC also received reports of slight respiratory irritation in Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

Mote and Secoora to co-host public forum: Eyes on the Ocean

The public is invited to the forum “Eyes on the Ocean: Why monitoring the sea makes your life better” at 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Jan. 26 at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. This forum is being held in conjunction with an upcoming Board Meeting for the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA).

SECOORA is one of 11 regional coastal observing systems that comprise the NOAA-led United States Integrated Ocean Observing System (U.S. IOOS).

“IOOS is essentially a weather service for the coastal oceans and Great Lakes, providing the ability to ‘see’ what is happening both above and below the surface,” said Debra Hernandez, Executive Director of SECOORA. “With this information we are able to create tools that support human populations, coastal economies and a healthy, sustainable environment.”

Attendees will learn more about why integrated, regional ocean observing systems, such as SECOORA, are critically important to improve weather forecasts, monitor climate change, understand marine resource dynamics, promote ecosystem and human health, promote maritime and public safety, and enable sustained use of ocean and natural resources.

A panel discussion with industry professionals and Mote scientists will illustrate the value of ocean observations to the economy, public safety and quality of life.

“Our dynamic group of panelists will provide a well-rounded discussion on how observing systems assist them in the vital work they are conducting and how ocean observing directly impacts our local community,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Board Chairman of SECOORA. “Attendees will also hear more about how the community as a whole could benefit from advances in these types of technologies.”

Florida Forever bill heads to state Senate floor with amendment banning overhead costs

A bill seeking $100 million for Florida Forever is headed to the Senate floor with an amendment that prohibits the state from spending the money on general operations.

The state Senate budget committee passed Senate Bill 370 Thursday, the same day its chairman filed the amendment to protect the funding he seeks in the bill he filed in September.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, said he wants to make sure the state doesn't continue to spend money reserved for environmental land preservation on certain overhead costs. The amendment specifically prohibits providing the appropriation to:

  • Executive direction and support services, and technology and information services within the Department of Environmental Protection
  • Executive direction and support services, and technology services within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Executive direction and administrative support services within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Executive direction and support services within the Department of State
  • Florida, Georgia water war reaches nation's highest court

    A decades-long “water war” is now before the nation’s highest court – pitting Georgia’s use of water to supply its multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry and the booming Atlanta area, against the Sunshine State’s need for fresh water to revive its oyster business.

    The case, still sitting with the Supreme Court, is centered around the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. These freshwater sources start in Georgia, then join together and form the Apalachicola River near the Florida border, which flows into Apalachicola Bay.

    There lies what once was a thriving oyster market. A decade ago farmers could harvest nearly 20, 60-pound bags of oysters on any given day in the bay of brackish water, according to Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire. Today, he says farmers struggle to bring home one to three bags because the salinity is too high.

    Research: Oxygen Levels Continue Dropping In World's Waters

    Scientists say that climate change is having an effect on the levels of the world’s oceans.

    But it’s also apparently affecting the oxygen levels throughout the oceans, as well as our coastal waters including the Gulf of Mexico.

    That’s according to a study published in the Jan. 4 issue of Science by a team of scientists from the Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE), a working group created by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

    One of the group’s members is Brad Seibel, a professor of biological oceanography at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. He talked to University Beat about what they’ve discovered so far:

    There’s two processes at work here – and mankind may be to blame for both.

    District asks homeowners to "Skip A Week" of irrigation this winter

    The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents who irrigate their lawns to “Skip a Week” or more of watering during the cooler months of January and February.

    According to research by the University of Florida, grass doesn’t need to be watered as often during the cooler months. One-half to three-quarters of an inch of water every 10–14 days is sufficient. In fact, if your lawn has received any significant rainfall, then you can turn off your irrigation system and operate it manually as needed.

    You can determine when your grass needs water when:
    • 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.

    Watering only every other week at most during the winter will help conserve drinking water supplies that the public needs for critical uses during the dry season.

    For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/SkipAWeek.

    Rick Scott and Trump administration strike deal: No drilling off Florida coast

    A hastily arranged airport rendezvous Tuesday ended with an announcement from President Donald Trump’s administration that the state of Florida is “off the table” for new offshore oil drilling, a declaration that brought both relief and protests of election-year politics.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at the airport in Tallahassee Tuesday afternoon. Both men emerged 20 minutes later to face waiting reporters, who had an hour’s notice of the meeting.

    “As a result of our interest in making sure that there’s no drilling here, Florida will be taken off the table,” Scott said.

    Zinke said the decision was a culmination of multiple meetings between Scott and Trump administration officials.

    “Florida is obviously unique,” Zinke said. “For Floridians, we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, and clearly the governor has expressed that it’s important.”

    JAN. 25: youth making ripples marine science film festival

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    Join Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium for a mini film screening from the "Youth Making Ripples" Film Competition at 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25 in Mote's WAVE Center, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota. A portion of this year’s FREE screening will focus specifically on plastic pollution and feature Mote’s new exhibit, "Sea Debris: Awareness through Art."

    This film competition, organized by Beneath the Waves, Inc., gives students in grades K-12 the chance to use their creative talents to give the oceans a voice.

    The film festival will kick off at 5:30 p.m. with a pre-viewing reception, where Mote scientists will showcase their research through demonstrations. After the films, Mote scientists and experts will participate in a mini Q&A session.

    This event is free to the public.

    RSVP: https://mote.org/events/details/youth-making-ripples-film-festival-2018

    Contact for additional information: Dr. Philip Gravinese and Dr. Lauren Toth via: youthmakingripples@gmail.com

    About Beneath the Waves Youth Making Ripples Marine Science Film Festival:

    Beneath the Waves is a global platform for ocean conservation, education and discovery. Their mission is to raise awareness regarding critical marine issues, foster the advancement of science, and promote protection of the oceans. Their annual educational initiative, The Youth Making Ripples Film Festival, is an international marine science film competition for elementary, middle and high school students. Each year students from around the world create short marine science documentaries that promote ocean conservation. The films are judged by scientists and the finalist’s debut to the public each year as part of their traveling film festival.

    High-risk underground fuel tanks in Florida await cleanup as state spends millions on easy fixes

    Scattered across Florida are 19,000 underground petroleum storage tanks that are no longer in use and may be leaking into the aquifer, the state’s drinking water supply.

    State records show that 738 of them are in Pinellas County, 792 in Hillsborough, 101 in Pasco and 61 in Hernando.

    Most people who live near them don’t even know they are there, or that they might be polluting their water. State law doesn’t require anyone to warn them.

    The state Department of Environmental Protection, in charge of cleaning up the mess, was originally supposed to work on the highest-priority sites first, those posing the greatest threat to human health.

    But at the direction of lawmakers and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, that’s no longer the case.

    12-foot-long white shark pinged in Gulf near Tampa on New Year's Day

    A 12-foot 5-inch 1,668 pound female white shark named "Miss Costa" was pinged in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa on New Year's Day.

    "Miss Costa" was tagged on September 26, 2016 in Nantucket, Massachusetts by OCEARCH.ORG to gather scientific data and track her journey. She was named for their partner Costa Sunglasses. Costa has helped enable OCEARCH's work on the water.

    "Miss Costa" has traveled 5,639.237 miles and counting since being tagged. She has made her way from Massachusetts to as far south as Key West and as of January 1, 2018, she was hanging out in the waters off of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

    Despite frigid Florida temperatures, water too warm to kill red tide, experts say

    The chill that is essentially freezing Floridians to the core probably won’t have a big effect one of the state’s least popular nautical residents: red tide.

    Despite this, the bloom that had been stinking up Southwest Florida shores since at least mid-November appears to be crawling north.

    According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s mid-week red tide report studying water samples taken from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2, the Karenia brevis organism was found in background concentrations in one sample near Pinellas County; in low concentrations in one sample in Manatee; and in background to high concentrations in the 16 samples in Sarasota.

    Some water samples in Charlotte and Lee counties also had high concentrations, which means there were more than 1 million K. brevis cells per liter of water. Fish kills and respiratory irritation were also reported between Sarasota and Lee counties.

    No easy fix to Sarasota's flood-prone roadways

    Rising tides, increased development and ongoing construction lead to flooded roadways in downtown area

    SARASOTA — When it rains, it pours, and it puddles along U.S. 41 in downtown Sarasota.

    Although flooding along the busy corridor is hardly new, it appears to happen ever more frequently and has increasingly frustrated residents and city officials alike over the past summer.

    In some extraordinary cases, Sarasota Police have shut down the flood-prone stretch of U.S. 41 from Fruitville Road to Gulfstream Avenue, such as when record rainfall drenched the area in late August.

    But in stranger cases, certain portions of that same area have become essentially impassable after just an hour or two of heavy rain, such as the Monday evening storm on Oct. 23 and several afternoon showers in June and July.

    Coastal waters threaten Florida's historic resources

    DAYTONA BEACH — The Castillo de San Marcos withstood two sieges in 330 years and changed hands five times, but its latest invader — the rising Atlantic Ocean — threatens to erode the historic St. Augustine fortress. The coquina shell walls of the oldest masonry fort in the United States once absorbed cannonballs but will be susceptible to the buffetings of the sea.

    On the other side of the state, Egmont Key was named one of the state’s 11 most endangered places this year by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation because rising seas threaten to submerge the island. Just outside Tampa Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, the island holds sacred significance for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as well as the ruins of another Spanish-American era fort, but its elevation is just six feet.

    “It’s the first project that we’ve placed on our annual endangered list because it’s endangered by sea level rise,” said Clay Henderson, president of the trust, when the key was added to the list earlier this year.

    Like the St. Augustine fort and Egmont Key, thousands of Florida’s heritage sites are vulnerable to rising seas, said Henderson, executive director of Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience. “Jupiter Lighthouse, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Fort Jefferson and Fort Pickens in Pensacola — all of these places are threatened.”

    “When you look at St. Augustine, the oldest city in existence in our country, and it’s flooded twice in the last year, these are real threats,” he said. “They’re no longer academic and off in the future. They’re in real time.”

    Growing concerns

    Similar concerns are growing across the state and country as experts begin to assess what could be damaged or lost and how soon that could happen. In some places, damage already is occurring.

    Federal scientists say seas in parts of Florida have risen at a rate of about a third of an inch a year over the past decade. Mid-range forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicate seas could rise anywhere from 13 to 39 inches in Florida by 2070 and as much as 72 inches by 2100.

    Red tide bloom spreading out along Southwest Florida coast

    DEC.29th » A red tide bloom that's been lingering along the Southwest Florida coast for the past two months has spread out and grown more dense in recent days.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reporting counts of 1 million cells per liter of Karenia brevis (the organism that causes red tides in this region) and higher in Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee counties.

    "I got 2 million cells per liter just south of Sanibel," said Rick Bartleson, a water quality scientists at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation who takes samples and reports them to fish and wildlife. "I also found 2 million cells per liter about a-mile-and-a-half south of Sanibel, and all of the samples I took (in other areas along the coast) had Karenia."

    Fish kills can happen when counts reach 10,000 cells per liter and have been reported in Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota, although Bartleson said the strongest part of the blooms is offshore.

    Karenia brevis is a natural part of the ecosystem but can bloom to high concentrations when conditions favor it.

    Blooms typically start off around Sarasota and work their way south toward Collier County and Marco Island.

    This bloom probably started in October as several cormorants with red tide poisoning were taken to the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, or CROW, on Sanibel then.

    2018 NEST Calendar now available

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    Sarasota County's 2018 NEST Calendar is now available at county facilities, while supplies last.

    Each year, the Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST) produces the calendar, which supports the county's goal of environmental stewardship. It cultivates a strong conservation ethic in the community's youth and adults.

    The theme of the 2018 calendar is "Seagrass Keeps the Bay Alive," in which students were asked to convey that what we do on our lands and in our homes has a direct impact on the health of our beautiful bays and beaches.

    Students from schools across Sarasota County were honored by the Sarasota County Commission during Wednesday's board meeting. During a breakfast ceremony prior to the meeting, commissioners signed each winning student's calendar.

    Elementary school students in all public and private Sarasota County schools, including charter and elementary-age home-schooled students were invited to participate.

    Drew Kimball, a fifth-grade student at Pine View School, was selected from the hundreds of entries as this year's cover winner. The other winners, whose artwork is featured each month, are as follows:

    • January: Eva Brock, a fifth-grade student at Island Village Montessori School
    • February: Chase Lanum, a first-grade student at Garden Elementary School
    • March: Lana Tran, a third-grade student at St. Martha Catholic School
    • April: Selena Shen, a third-grade student at Pine View School
    • May: Daniel Palacio, a fourth-grade student at Ashton Elementary School
    • June: Bowdy Paver, a fourth-grade student at Englewood Elementary School
    • July: Irina Kazakova, a second-grade student at Glenallen Elementary School
    • August: Emiri Lawrence, a kindergarten student at Englewood Elementary School
    • September: Rayne Wilkerson, a third-grade student at Glenallen Elementary School
    • October: Kai Sons, a second-grade student at Incarnation Catholic School
    • November: Ana Martinez-Montanez, a fourth-grade student at St. Martha Catholic School
    • December: Bryce Santar, a fifth-grade student at Ashton Elementary School

    There are nearly 13,500 acres of seagrass beds in coastal and bay waters in Sarasota County. Sea life such as manatees and sea turtles depend on the seagrass for food. It also serves as homes for marine life such as seahorses, crabs and sea stars.

    "Keeping stormwater as clean and clear as possible will help seagrass grow," said Mollie Holland, NEST coordinator. "More seagrass means more food for manatees and sea turtles, and more room for fish, seahorses and other marine life."

    For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

    Red tide, boat strikes cause of most manatee deaths in 2017

    A prolonged red tide season that bled over from 2016 played a large role in deaths of the Florida manatee this year.

    Red tide’s presence was visible — visually and nasally — from September 2016 through February in Manatee County, with other areas along Southwest Florida also being exposed.

    Also known as the accumulation of the phytoplankton Karenia brevis, red tide used to be a one-off reason for manatee mortality, said Katie Tripp, Save the Manatee’s director of science and conservation.

    In 2016, a total of 520 manatees were reported dead statewide, with various causes such as boat strikes, cold stress syndrome or natural. This year, preliminary counts through Dec. 15 put the count at 513. Many of them occurred in Brevard or Lee counties, as a lot of manatees congregate in those waters. More often than not, the cause of death goes undetermined.

    FGCU students join movement to clean Florida waters

    Three Florida Gulf Coast University students joined the fight for clean water in Southwest Florida.

    Cooper Kennedy, Jessica Miller and Ashlynn Reynolds produced a video as part of a classroom project after hearing the local grassroots organization Captains for Clean Water speak at their fishing club on campus. "I personally already knew about the problem," Kennedy, a Southwest Floridia native, said of his understanding of the water troubles brought on by Lake Okeechobee water releases. "I've noticed the problem all my life."

    For Miller, her future career helping marine animals depends on a permanent solution to the Everglades restoration. "[There are] animals, fish, plants, and organisms you cant find anywhere else on the planet. They only live in the Everglades," Miller said about the need to resolve the issues with water across the state.

    Reynolds brings perspective from Fort Pierce, as an east coast Floridian who grew up on the water. "All the beaches in my hometown are closed down because of this issue," she said. "I know people from my hometown [think] this is only a Fort Pierce issue, that it's local. It's not. Lake Okeechobee is huge."

    For their collaborative project, they chose to focus on the water problem in south Florida, at a pivotal time for the group they're supporting, Captains for Clean Water, as the implementation stages of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir move forward.

    Study: Sarasota stormwater system can support snook, bass and more

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    Dozens of fish species — including common snook and largemouth bass — use certain parts of the upper Phillippi Creek system, according to the first fish survey of this urbanized network of canals, retention ponds and wetlands in Sarasota County, Florida.

    The survey — led by Mote Marine Laboratory and funded by Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) — found the highest numbers and diversity of fishes around upper creek areas mimicking natural habitat: curving canals or ponds with wetland vegetation and sections of slower-moving water. Less naturalistic canals, with shorelines straightened for optimum drainage, generally hosted fewer fish of fewer species.

    Urban waterways can lose ecosystem value — for example, ability to support economically important sport fish — due to pollution, altered water flow and loss of natural habitat. Scientists around the nation are investigating how to help these waterways better serve wildlife, ecosystems and communities. Phillippi Creek drains approximately 60 square miles (145 square kilometers) of Sarasota County land, with downstream waterways richer in natural habitat and upstream waterways bearing a clearer human fingerprint: more straightened, channelized canals, sediment traps and retention ponds.

    “We want to understand how to balance the role of these waterways between stormwater management and ecosystem function,” said Mote staff scientist Dr. Jim Locascio. “Can upper Phillippi Creek be enhanced to benefit fish without sacrificing its performance as a drainage system? That’s what we hope our survey results will lead into. First we needed to learn how the system is functioning and understand whether some creek areas are more productive in supporting fish.”

    “Typical stormwater drainage systems were designed to transport excess water directly from residential areas to the sea; this concentrates flow through a narrow area,” said Mote Staff Scientist Dr. Nate Brennan, who was also involved in the project. “Such systems can experience flash-flooding as well as very reduced flow, and they can transport nutrient-laden sediment downstream, all of which affects how many species can survive in the canals themselves and in downstream ecosystems such as estuaries and seagrass flats. However, slower and more consistently flowing waterways can be refuges with higher diversity of prey animals as well as high-value, predatory fish such as snook and largemouth bass. Upper Phillppi Creek is dominated by straightened canals, but it also includes good refuge areas and sites with potential to create more; that really interests us.”

    Since the 1980s, Sarasota County has significantly enhanced its measures to prevent floods and enhance water quality, most commonly using wet ponds. Ponds help delay the discharge of runoff, capture sediments and protect downstream ecosystems. County officials and Mote scientists each want to know whether further enhancements will help support fisheries.

    Based on discussions with Sarasota County and SBEP staff, Mote scientists surveyed fish and select invertebrates (such as shrimp) at about 70 sites – most along upper Phillippi Creek, north of Bahia Vista Street and east of Beneva Road, and one downstream from this junction: Red Bug Slough preserve. Sites represented three habitat types: canals with generally straightened shorelines maintained to drain storm water; secondary stage canals with more bent shorelines, restored wetland areas, a natural preserve and sediment traps; and retention ponds known as the Celery Fields.