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

Water-Related News

Red tide episode kills record number of sea turtles

Wildlife officials say manatee deaths are not far behind.

SARASOTA — A Florida red tide outbreak close to 16 months old has killed more sea turtles than any previous single red tide event on record, and manatee deaths are not far behind.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission attributed 589 sea turtles and 213 manatee deaths to this episode of red tide, which began in late 2017. It had killed 127 bottlenose dolphins as of Dec. 20, leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare an unusual mortality event.

Because of the partial U.S. government shutdown, NOAA has not provided updates for dolphins on its UME website. Dolphin strandings spiked in August and November, but have begun to slow down as red tide shows signs of weakening along the Southwest Florida coast.

Few experienced the gruesome first-hand effects of red tide more than turtle patrol participants, who wore masks and scarves to check turtle crawls following hatching during nesting season, May through October.

Gov. DeSantis announces sweeping fixes meant to clean up Florida's water woes

Two days after he took office, Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled sweeping measures to clean up Florida’s troubled waters Thursday, including spending $2.5 billion and launching more aggressive policies to address algae choking Lake Okeechobee and polluting the state’s coasts.

The newly minted governor, who angered environmentalists on the campaign trail by dismissing climate change as a significant threat, also promised to establish a resiliency office to address looming dangers.

“The people of Florida wanted to see action and this was action that was requested regardless of your party,” DeSantis said in a morning briefing at a Florida Gulf Coast University field station in Bonita Springs, north of Naples. “This is something that can unite all Floridians.”

DeSantis also ordered construction sped up on a 17,000-acre Everglades reservoir in farm fields south of the lake and said he would work with federal officials to end polluted discharges.

“I’d like to see no discharges,” he said. “We’re working with the White House and as difficult as it is, working with the Army Corps [of Engineers] to mitigate that.”

The new governor also promised to appoint a chief science officer so “we’re doing sound science making sure we’re getting ahead of the curve on these issues.”

Hurricane preparedness casualty of federal government shutdown

Weather models are not being updated and training sessions might be canceled during the budget standoff

The U.S. government’s partial shutdown is in its third week, and the pinch of the protracted standoff over funding for a wall along the country’s border with Mexico is starting to be felt—not only by workers missing paychecks, but also in terms of important science that is not getting done.

About 800,000 workers have either been furloughed or, if their jobs are deemed essential to protecting lives and property, are working without pay across dozens of shuttered agencies and departments. These include several that do significant scientific work such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—the parent agency of the National Weather Service. Although day-to-day forecasting operations continue at the NWS, key improvements to weather models have been put on pause. Data needed for research projects may be inaccessible; and if the shutdown continues much longer, preparedness training will be canceled for emergency managers in coastal communities looking warily ahead to the coming hurricane season after the devastating storms of recent years.

Eric Blake, a forecaster with the NWS’s National Hurricane Center in Miami spoke with Scientific American about the shutdown’s impact on the NWS and its employees (in his capacity as the National Weather Service Employees Organization union steward at the center).

Federal government spending $100 million to study desalination

The Trump administration is hoping to reinvigorate a technology long dismissed as too expensive or energy-intensive to help solve a water crisis that has seen drought grip swaths of the American West, sparking deadly wildfires and legal battles over supply.

The Energy Department last month declared that it's spending $100 million over the next five years to create a research and development hub on desalination, a process that converts seawater and brackish inland water into freshwater.

Announced roughly five years after Congress appropriated the funds under the Obama administration, the planned hub comes as once-periodic water shortages have become perennial, if not ever-present, in American communities, forcing policymakers to rethink how residents get freshwater – and reconsider technologies they'd once shelved.

The investment is widely seen in the research field as a moonshot effort, the best attempt yet to jump-start the kind of advancements that would make the elusive process energy-efficient and cost-effective and make a resource out of vast unusable deposits like the saltwater that covers two-thirds of the earth's surface.

"The significance can't be understated. Something like this has been a long time coming," says Jonathan Brant, associate professor of environmental engineering at the University of Wyoming.

"We're faced with a real water crisis, and the main solution to that is going to be able to tap – in an environmentally sustainable and economically sustainable way – saline water sources."

Desalination is costly and enormously energy intensive: Israel and Australia – two of the driest nations on Earth – are by far the world leaders in desalination, largely by necessity. While Israel draws more than half of its water from desalination plants – and more than 85 percent of its municipal water overall is reused – desalination plants in the U.S. provide less than 0.002 percent of the water consum

Senate panel briefed on septic tanks’ contribution to algae outbreak

Septic tanks are one of the primary triggers for toxic algae blooms throughout the state, the Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee was told Wednesday.

A presentation was given by Dr. Brian Lapointe, who has worked as a research professor at Florida Atlantic University and has studied water quality in the state for decades.

He has previously produced work, funded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, showing that septic tanks are a large contributor to the pollution that allows algae blooms to spawn in Florida’s waterways.

“I personally consider this the most important and urgent issue facing our state,” Lapointe said.

That runs counter, however, to many environmental groups who put the blame mostly on phosphorus from fertilizer runoff from sugar farms.

Musical acts announced for 2019 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival

It's been a tough year for commercial fishermen in the Manatee-Sarasota area, with red tide impacting local fisheries and causing fear of fish consumption. Come out and support our local fisherfolk at this fun annual festival, which has the theme "Changing Tides". The location is 4415 119th St. W., 34209, in the Village of Cortez. As always, there will be good fun, good seafood, and good music.

2019 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival – Music Schedule

Saturday February 16th

  • 10:00 – 11:00 am: Shanty Singers
  • 11:30 – 1:00 pm: Doug Demming
  • 1:00 – 1:30 pm: Awards and Introductions
  • 2:00 – 4:00 pm: Eric Von Band
  • 4:30 – 6:00 pm: Koko Ray Show

Sunday February 17th

  • 10:30 – 12:00 pm: Soupy Davis and his Band
  • 12.30 – 2:00 pm: Ted Stevens & the Doo Shots
  • 2:30 – 4:00 pm: Jason Haram
  • 4:30 – 6:00 pm: Karen and Jimmy Band
  • 1:00 – 5:00 pm: Eric Von on the Bratton Store Porch

CHEC seeking volunteer trail guides in Charlotte County

A training session for new Trail Guides will be conducted on Feb. 4th at 10 a.m.

Enjoy learning about and teaching others about nature? Looking for a fun and educational way to meet like minded people? Consider becoming a volunteer Trail Guide with Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center at Cedar Point Park, 2300 Placida Road in Englewood.

From October through April, volunteers are need as Trail Guides to lead guided nature walks through several local Charlotte County properties. These are usually from 9:00 am to 11:00 am on various days of the week. If interested, a training session will be scheduled on Monday, February 4 at 10 AM at Cedar Point Environmental Park. You will learn some plants, animals, and interpretive techniques that may help you lead these “walks in the woods”.

If interested, contact Bobbi Rodgers at 941-475-0769 or bobbi@CHECflorida.org.

To learn more about Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEC), go to www.checflorida.org or visit CHEC on Facebook.

January 26: Whitaker Bayou Healthy Communities and Waterways

On January 26, join the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, the Multicultural Health Institute, Orange Blossom Community Garden, the City of Sarasota, Sarasota County, Around the Bend Nature Tours, WayneAdventures, and Ringling College of Art + Design for a day of improving environmental and community health.

A paddle and land cleanup of Whitaker Bayou and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park will take place in the morning, followed by free lunch, health screenings from the Multicultural Health Institute, and garden education/tools from Orange Blossom Community Garden.

To register, please click on the link below: