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Water-Related News

Sarasota County BMPs to be employed proactively

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Sarasota County’s Stormwater Division crews are now taking a comprehensive, systematic approach consistent with industry standards in performing preventative maintenance. This approach is a departure from past practices of a reactive, complaint-driven process after a problem has occurred. This approach is identified as a Best Management Practice (BMP) for stormwater system maintenance. This approach enhances customer satisfaction, lowers long-term expenses and improves the drainage system’s overall performance.

The basic premise of the BMP is: Start preventative flood system maintenance at the downstream end of a system; clean and make functional the smallest constrictions in the conveyance system to improve and maintain consistent flows, typically driveway pipes; combine work efforts with any requests for service where the service is warranted, thus reducing crew travel time and mobilization costs; do any additional aesthetic improvements after the primary objectives are completed.

South Florida company addressing algal blooms with plastic beads

A South Florida environmental technology company has a plan to fight the state's blue-green algae problems with microscopic plastic beads.

Green Water Solution is one of four finalists for the George Barley Water Prize, a $10 million award started by the Everglades Foundation to address toxic algae blooms through new technologies. The prize is intended to fund a technology that can be used around the globe to reduce phosphorus contamination in water.

The CEO of the company, Frank Jochem, has been studying marine sciences and algal blooms for 25 years. He and the director of the George Barley Water Prize, Loren Parra, joined Sundial to talk about the technology.

Start of stone crab season in Cortez is worst in recent memory

To harvest the 1,200 pounds of stone crab for the seventh annual Cortez Stone Crab & Music Festival, which continues Sunday, Banyas had to go as far north as Crystal River and Hernando Beach.

“Except for the blue crab, nothing you’re eating here this weekend is local, I can tell you that,” said Banyas, who is also the founder of the festival.

Jim Gowlett, manager of Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant in Cortez, says a pound of medium claws is going for $15-18 a pound wholesale. He expects the prices to rise throughout the season as fishermen are forced to go farther north. Gowlett says Star Fish is charging retail customers about $21 for that same pound of claws, up a few dollars from this time last year.

To harvest the 1,200 pounds of stone crab for the seventh annual Cortez Stone Crab & Music Festival, which continues Sunday, Banyas had to go as far north as Crystal River and Hernando Beach.

“Except for the blue crab, nothing you’re eating here this weekend is local, I can tell you that,” said Banyas, who is also the founder of the festival.

Jim Gowlett, manager of Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant in Cortez, says a pound of medium claws is going for $15-18 a pound wholesale. He expects the prices to rise throughout the season as fishermen are forced to go farther north. Gowlett says Star Fish is charging retail customers about $21 for that same pound of claws, up a few dollars from this time last year.

Related content Swordfish Grill & Tiki Bar 7th Annual Cortez Stone Crab & Music Festival It’s been a tumultuous summer for Florida. The stone crab season opened Oct. 15 and runs through May 15. But lingering red tide, algae blooms, massive fish kills, and warm Gulf waters have all contributed to the slow start and poor harvest this year, Banyas said.

Phillip Gravinese, a post-doctoral researcher at Mote Marine Laboratory, told the Herald-Tribune in October that crabs near the shore and in shallower habitats exposed to the warmer water and high concentrations of red tide organism become stressed, stop eating and die.

SWFWMD aims to reduce risk of wildfires by performing prescribed fires

Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s wildfire emergency last year. That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) will be conducting prescribed burns in November and December in Sarasota County.

Myakka River - Deer Prairie Creek Preserve and Myakka River - Schewe Tract are located west of North Port, east of the Myakka River, and north and south of Interstate 75. Approximately 800 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat
  • Maintaining access for public recreation

The District conducts prescribed fires on approximately 30,000 acres each year. Click here to learn more about why igniting prescribed burns now prepares lands for the next wildfire season.

Emergency Lido Beach erosion project could begin this weekend

Sarasota shoreline has receded 15 feet after several storms.

An emergency project to rebuild parts of severely eroded Lido Beach could begin as early as this weekend.

Crews have already begun staging equipment at Lido Beach in preparation to use 150,000 to 200,000 cubic yards of sand from New Pass to rebuild the shoreline that officials say has lost an estimated 15 feet in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma last September and Subtropical Storm Alberto in May, prompting City Manager Tom Barwin to declare a state of emergency. The project will take approximately 90 days to complete, with the schedule depending on weather and other variables.

“Lido Beach has long been at a critical point of erosion and significant danger,” Barwin said in a statement on Wednesday. “We issued the state of emergency in recognition of the serious threats that just one more storm could pose for our environment, our local economy, properties and infrastructure on Lido Key and the quality of life that we all enjoy. We eagerly await both this short-term renourishment and our long-term plan to protect our shoreline and restore Lido Beach to its natural beauty.”

The beach will remain open through the duration of the project. Beachgoers are advised to use caution and stay aware of active work zones and any equipment operating in the area, city officials said.

Red tide, warm water slowing stone crab harvest

,p> A 130-mile long swath of red tide has shifted several times along the Southwest Florida coast, from Pinellas County to Collier County, for about a year.

Gravinese said Mote conducted an experiment from its docks near New Pass and in Sarasota Bay and found that crab mortality rates skyrocketed in stagnant water.

Jim Gowett, the assistant general manger at Star Fish Company market & Restaurant in Cortex fishing village, said warmer water in Manatee County is keeping crabs dormant. Crabber are going father into the Gulf or north to Crystal River for better luck.

"They are averaging about 2,000 pounds a day 70 miles north of us," Gowett said.

Coastal development, sea rise sent Hurricane Irma storm surge to more homes, study shows

MIAMI — Sea rise and development have put more Florida property at risk to hurricane storm surge flooding — about 43 percent more — according to a recent study that looked at Hurricane Irma’s effect with different sea levels.

NOAA Tidal gauges in Key West show that South Florida has seen about seven inches of sea level rise since the 1970s, which is part of the reason sunny day flooding has worsened in recent decades.

Siesta group files revised Big Pass challenge

Less than two weeks after a judge dismissed Siesta Key residents’ challenge to the proposed dredging of Big Pass, the island group has filed a revised lawsuit regarding the project.

On Oct. 23, the Siesta Key Association and resident David Patten submitted an amended complaint that once again attempts to block the Big Pass dredge. The city of Sarasota and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are planning to use sand from Big Pass to renourish eroded portions of the Lido Key shoreline.

Although the city has obtained a permit from the state for the project, the complaint argues the dredging fails to comply with the city and county comprehensive plans. The Siesta Key Association believes the city is required to obtain permission from the county to proceed with the project.

The Siesta Key Association, which represents approximately 1,700 residents, made a similar claim in its previous circuit court lawsuit. Twelfth Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh dismissed that challenge Oct. 12.

Sarasota installs stormwater filter to reduce red tide

Local stormwater utilities have set a trap for trash and nutrients that foster red tide to keep them from reaching Sarasota Bay.

A uniquely-designed baffle box filters organic matter, garbage and sediment pouring into a three-chamber filtration system placed underneath 10th Street near the Centennial Park and Boat Ramp in April. The box was intended to protect the boat basin, which was hydrologically dredged of about 20,000 tons of silt earlier this year.

It will also help to keep nitrogen and nutrients that exacerbate red tide blooms out of coastal waters.

The design of the baffle box, which is 24 feet long, 18 feet wide, and 17 feet deep, is one of a kind, according to Sarasota senior utilities engineer William Nichols.

Red tide forum highlights need for best management practices

VENICE — Scientists speaking at a red tide forum hosted Wednesday by the city of Venice Environmental Advisory Board stressed there’s no magic bullet to combat the bloom and offered sometimes conflicting opinions about human impacts on the phenomenon.

Ron Musselman, a professor emeritus at Franklin & Marshall College, characterized it as an “ocean physics problem” that is not significantly impacted by pollution runoff.

Instead, he noted that in an algae bloom the organism splits every three days and is influenced by the complex eddy flow of the Gulf of Mexico.

Mote announces launch of new Red Tide Institute

Mote Marine Laboratory on Monday announced the launch of its new Red Tide Institute, backed by a $1 million donation from the Andrew and Judith Economos Charitable Foundation.

The institute will focus on developing technologies to control and alleviate the effects of red tide, Mote President Michael Crosby said. With the funding, Mote is looking to expand its staff and add a “world-class expert” on algal blooms to its team of scientists, Crosby added. The Economos’ gift complements a $2.2 million grant that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provided to Mote last month.

“This is a paradigm shift in terms of how we’re able to ... continue the great, very productive research that we’ve had with FWC for several years,” Crosby said. “But that research, although it’s produced an incredible amount of information ... that’s never really been focused on developing technologies to attack red tide, to actually do something about red tide.”

In the past, funding for red tide research has centered on understanding Karenia brevis, the organism that causes the phenomenon, and monitoring and forecasting efforts. But Mote has led the effort to find ways to manage blooms in real time.

Lido beach project could help New Pass boaters

Patrick and Amy Heckethorn are avid boaters.

They own a 37-foot Grady White and a 62-foot Viking sport fisherman. One of the reasons they moved to Longboat Key was its boating benefits.

“We have been boaters our whole lives,” said Patrick, a native of Dyersburg, Tenn., which sits along the Mississippi River.

And like many boat owners in town, they have become frustrated about the conditions around New Pass, which connects the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay at Longboat Key's southern tip. Shoaling conditions made the channel hard to navigate and prompted the U.S. Coast Guard in May 2017 to remove the navigation markers, a signal to boaters that the channel wasn't up to safety standards.

Two channel lights were be converted into “Danger Shoal” markers with quick, white flashing lights, to be visible for three nautical miles.

North Port encouraging the voluntary non-use of fertilizer year-around

The City of North Port recognizes that fertilizers from many sources can enter into our waterways and may contribute to algal blooms including the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, which has caused widespread detrimental effect along the coastal communities. These nutrient pollutants can affect the regional watershed, and the City of North Port desires to be part of a regional effort to improve water quality. Water quality is critical to the Charlotte Harbor estuarine system and watershed. It is also critical to the City of North Port’s environmental, economic, and recreational prosperity and to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City.

The City of North Port’s Fertilizer Ordinance has a restricted period of June 1 through September 30 each year which prohibits use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer on turf, but landscape plants can still be fertilized with fertilizer containing 50% or more slow release nitrogen. In the period after September 30 and before June 1, fertilizing of both turf and landscape plants are allowed. In a previous Commission meeting on September 25, 2018, it was the desire of the North Port Commission to adopt a resolution as soon as possible to encourage non-use of fertilizers year-round for the health, well-being and safety of the community.

This new resolution approved on October 9, 2018, will contribute to a regional effort to reduce fertilizer runoff into waterbodies that flow to the estuary and ocean. This resolution encourages a voluntary non-use of fertilizer year-around, which is more restrictive than the City’s fertilizer ordinance.

Watershed groups have a positive impact on local water quality, study finds

Economists have found that in the United States, watershed groups have had a positive impact on their local water quality.

A new published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first empirical evidence that nonprofit organizations can provide public goods, said Christian Langpap, an Oregon State University economist and study co-author with Laura Grant, an assistant professor of economics at Claremont McKenna College.

In economics, a public good is a commodity or service that individuals cannot be effectively excluded from using, and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to others. For these reasons, public goods can't be provided for profit and nonprofits can play an important role.

"Environmental nonprofit groups are assumed to provide public goods," said Langpap, an associate professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "But until now that assumption has never been tested empirically. We determined that the presence of water groups in a watershed resulted in improved water quality and higher proportions of swimmable and fishable water bodies."

The presence and activity of watershed groups can impact water quality in various ways, including oversight and monitoring, direct actions such as organizing volunteers for cleanups or restoration, and indirect actions like advocacy and education.

The researchers' analysis combined data on water quality and watershed groups for 2,150 watersheds in the continental United States from 1996 to 2008. The number of watershed groups across the lower 48 tripled during this period, from 500 to 1,500.

Cooler weather won't help with red tide, but season change could

SUNSET BEACH — It’s late October and the water is still that dark red tide color at some southern Pinellas County beaches.

Like many vacationers this year, Angie Smith and her family were concerned about the red tide.

"I can’t imagine that it would last that much longer just because it's been going on for so long," said daughter Ally Smith.

Luckily it wasn’t as bad as they thought and they’ve been able to enjoy their vacation at Treasure Island Beach.

But everyone can agree that this red tide has lasted a long time. Oceanographers from NOAA say that this algae bloom actually started last October in the Gulf before making its way to shore.

So what will make this toxic algae bloom disappear? NOAA says cold weather really has no impact, but season changes do.

‘Living seawall’ helps bring new marine life to Sarasota Bay

SARASOTA — The waterfront in downtown Sarasota is getting a new look. Crews just constructed a “living seawall” near O’Leary’s bar and grill.

“This has been put in front of a regular seawall to make the wave reflection less and to give a home for marine life,” said creator Todd Barber.

Barber used natural rocks to create the habitat. He said marine life has already started calling the wall home.

"We’ve seen fish arrive. Baby and adult fish, birds, manatees all enjoying the seawall,” said Barber.

The wall will help stop erosion, but it could help future red tide.

“It’ll be a home for sea squirts, oysters, scallops, things that are actively eating the red tide out of the water,” said Barber.

The City of Sarasota paid for the wall with BP oil spill funds.

North Port encouraging the voluntary non-use of fertilizer year-around

On Tuesday, October 9, 2018, North Port City Commission unanimously approved a resolution to encourage the voluntary non-use of fertilizer year-around. Read the full resolution here »

The City of North Port recognizes that fertilizers from many sources can enter into our waterways and may contribute to algal blooms including the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, which has caused widespread detrimental effect along the coastal communities. These nutrient pollutants can affect the regional watershed, and the City of North Port desires to be part of a regional effort to improve water quality. Water quality is critical to the Charlotte Harbor estuarine system and watershed. It is also critical to the City of North Port’s environmental, economic, and recreational prosperity and to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City.

The City of North Port’s Fertilizer Ordinance has a restricted period of June 1 through September 30 each year which prohibits use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer on turf, but landscape plants can still be fertilized with fertilizer containing 50% or more slow release nitrogen. In the period after September 30 and before June 1, fertilizing of both turf and landscape plants are allowed. In a previous Commission meeting on September 25, 2018, it was the desire of the North Port Commission to adopt a resolution as soon as possible to encourage non-use of fertilizers year-round for the health, well-being and safety of the community.

This new resolution approved on October 9, 2018, will contribute to a regional effort to reduce fertilizer runoff into waterbodies that flow to the estuary and ocean. This resolution encourages a voluntary non-use of fertilizer year-around, which is more restrictive than the City’s fertilizer ordinance.

Sarasota County and Mote agree on terms for proposed aquarium site

SARASOTA COUNTY - Sarasota County Commissioners approved a term sheet with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium on Wednesday that outlines details to locate a new aquarium at Sarasota County's Nathan Benderson Park.

According to the term sheet, Sarasota County and Mote will enter into a subsequent agreement that outlines the process and agreements associated with the transaction of 11.45 acres of land requested to build the Mote Marine Science Education Aquarium. Within 90 days of the short-term lease's commencement, Mote will be required to apply for all land-use approvals needed to eventually own and develop the property. Following the outcome of the land-use approvals, Sarasota County will either convey the land to Mote or enter into a long-term lease with Mote, who will operate the property at their own expense.

The county commissioners approved separating Mote's request for land from their request for financial support, and asked county staff to bring back a resolution supporting the proposed aquarium. The county commissioners approved the resolution supporting the proposed aquarium project and requested a term sheet to be developed and brought back for their consideration.

According to Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis, county staff worked diligently with Mote representatives to bring this term sheet before commissioners for their consideration.

"Today's decision by the board is progress for the partnership between Mote and Sarasota County," Lewis said, adding, "This has the potential to be a legacy project, one that becomes yet another world class destination for our community and visitors."

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 or visit www.scgov.net.

North Port commissioners urge residents to curb year-round fertilizer use

SARASOTA COUNTY — North Port city commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to encourage residents to curb use of fertilizer year-round — joining Venice, which adopted a similar voluntary ban earlier this year.

City Commissioner Jill Luke worked on the resolution, along with city stormwater management staff.

And similar to a resolution that was passed in Venice, the city of North Port is only urging residents to take steps to curb fertilizer use, in hopes of reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in stormwater runoff, and, in turn, avoiding feeding the red tide algae in the Gulf of Mexico.

North Port stormwater manager Elizabeth Wong said the city is planning educational outreach for a variety of users.

Prevent red tide? Start with more wetlands, experts say

Three Democratic federal lawmakers will work toward increasing water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico and creating more wetlands to clean water flowing into the Gulf and other waterways.

U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson crafted a preliminary action plan Wednesday after meeting with local scientists and business leaders about the ongoing impacts of red tide.

“Even though the tourism numbers have been up … boy, this could really set us back unless we work together to address the red tide,” Castor said during a roundtable discussion in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Three scientists with varying areas of expertise all agreed: Red tide is a naturally occurring environmental phenomenon, but large blooms are likely fueled by warmer Gulf temperatures as the result of climate change and, possibly, by nutrient runoff from agriculture.

Holmes Beach commission pushes for fix to polluted Spring Lake

Holmes Beach commissioners want to remediate the highly toxic Spring Lake.

But whether the water body between 68th and 70th streets should return to fresh water origins or a subsequently transformed saltwater ecosystem will be studied next.

At an Oct. 9 work session, city engineer Lynn Burnett called the ammonia levels “highly toxic” and agreed with a Sept. 5 report from city consultant Aquatic Systems Lake & Wetland Services of Pompano to reclaim a fresh water ecosystem.

But after a neighbor spoke of the lake’s past saltwater success, Burnett called for a second study from the consultant.

Burnett had first agreed with ASLWS findings and recommended the city dredge “the junk off the bottom,” add aeration, monitor and let a fresh water lake return to “function and thrive.”

Judge dismisses Big Pass lawsuit

At an Oct. 4 Siesta Key Association meeting, board member and Siesta resident Catherine Luckner was optimistic about the group’s latest legal challenge contesting the city’s plans to dredge Big Pass.

Although the city had filed a motion to dismiss the case, Luckner believed the association made a compelling argument that the county needed to review the Lido Key renourishment project before it could move forward. She was confident the city’s motion would be unsuccessful and a circuit court hearing would go forward.

“I believe that we will have the right to be heard,” Luckner said. “I have no reason not to think that.”

Eight days later, a judge granted the city’s motion, dismissing the Siesta Key Association’s challenge of the dredging.

On Friday, 12th Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh ruled the Siesta Key Association and co-plaintiff David Patton failed to make a case for legal action. The challenge argued the project failed to comply with the city and county comprehensive plans and the state Community Planning Act.

'No swim' advisories lifted for Nokomis, Manasota Key beaches

The "No Swim" advisories issued Wednesday, Oct. 10, for Nokomis Beach and Manasota Key Beach have been lifted.

Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County officials received testing results today that were at a satisfactory level meeting both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state recreational water standards.

Residents and visitors may return to swimming and other water sports at this beach site. The "no swim" advisory signage will be removed.

There are no beach advisories in place in Sarasota County at this time.

South Venice Community Cleanup

It's time to clean out the garage and gather discarded household items, appliances, junk, tree trimmings and other garbage as Sarasota County will hold a free community cleanup in the South Venice area from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 20.

Dumpsters will be available at the following locations:

  • South Venice Community Center, 720 Alligator Drive.
  • South Venice Ferry Landing, 2000 block of Lemon Bay Drive.
  • Seaboard Drive, near Orange Street.

Canal Watch Group launched in North Port

The City in cooperation with citizens of North Port have recognized the need to form a Canal Watch Group. The Canal Watch Group is open to anyone that wishes to conduct observations on any stretch of canal. Members will become ambassadors for our canals and environmental stewards for conserving North Port’s natural resources.

The canal system in North Port serves as the city’s drinking water source and must be protected from pollution. One major goal of the Canal Watch Group is to educate the public on how to minimize pollutants in our water resources through communication within our communities and neighborhoods. Another goal is to observe the canals for any illicit discharge or general unhealthiness. Examples of concern include excessive fertilizing or fertilizing during prohibited wet months. Concerns also include oil sheen, illegal dumping, improper disposal of plant and animal waste, algae blooms, excessive turbidity, dead fish and other affected wildlife. To help protect our water quality, North Port City Commission unanimously approved a resolution on October 9, 2018, to encourage the voluntary non-use of fertilizer year-around.