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

Water-Related News

Governor announces $50M in springs funding

On Friday, Sept. 17th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced $50 million for more than 20 statewide springs restoration projects during a press conference in Weeki Wachee.

Among the projects that will be funded are these:

Northwest Florida Water Management District
$1.1 million to extend central sewer service to the Tara Estates neighborhood located north of Marianna, including abandoning septic tanks proximate to the Chipola River.

Southwest Florida Water Management District
A total of more than $8.3 million for projects in Marion County that will help protect Rainbow Springs, including Burkitt Road Septic to Sewer, Northwest Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion, Oak Bend I-75 Water Quality Improvement and the 180th Avenue Package Plant Abatement.

St. Johns River Water Management District
$1.1 million for the Apopka West Reuse Storage Facility and Reclaimed Water Extension project that will provide nearly 3.48 million gallons per day of reclaimed water, benefiting Wekiwa and Rock springs.

Suwannee River Water Management District
A total of more than $2.3 million for the acquisition of more than 3,600 acres of land to protect springs in Columbia County Grasslands (Ichetucknee Springs), Devil’s Ear Springs Recharge (Ginnie Springs Group), Santa Fe Springs and Sawdust Spring (Sawdust and Devil’s Ear springs). The acquisition of these lands will help improve aquifer recharge potential, enhance recreational opportunities and protect native species.

Charlotte County launches next mass septic removal project

With little debate, Charlotte County commissioners signed the death warrant for the next 1,725 septic systems in mid-county.

Charlotte County Utilities Director Craig Rudy Tuesday ran through the $30 million, multi-year plan to remove septic systems on the west side of U.S. 41 starting around Cochran Boulevard around Lakeview Boulevard. The project would head south to Countryman Waterway into Alligator Bay.

Construction on the northern half of the project ending around Midway Boulevard could begin around 2024, Rudy said. The southern half of the project would be constructed much later.

Each project takes years of negotiations with property owners including consolidation of lots. County staff sometimes struggle to locate property owners.

This is the fourth septic-to-sewer project the county has undertaken, including East/West Spring Lake, El Jobean and Ackerman. A septic to sewer master plan in 2017 identified 4,769 systems as high priorty for removal due to their age and proximity to water. The goal was to complete removal in 15 years.

A 2019 report discovered, however, that hundreds of new septic systems are going in every year in Charlotte County, because so much of the county is missing sewers. The report predicted the county would continue to rely on septic systems to handle new growth.

EPA allocates $1M to help USF study harmful algal blooms

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sending $1 million to the University of South Florida to help study methods to control harmful algal blooms (HAB).

The USF study aims to look at “nutrient treatment technologies” to help manage those blooms inside Lake Okeechobee.

On Thursday, the EPA announced nearly $6.5 million in funding for seven different research institutions across the country to help study mitigation efforts.

“Harmful algal blooms are a serious and persistent problem across all 50 states that can have severe impacts on human health, the environment, and the economy,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a release on the grant funds.

FWC funds grant to study airborne red tide toxins

DAVIE — Two University of Florida scientists are the recipients of a $200,000 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They will use that money over the next 10 months to develop the methodology leading to a device that detects and measures the amount of toxins in the air from red tides.

Red tide events are a type of harmful algal bloom (HABs) caused by the species Karenia brevis that produces poisons dubbed brevetoxins. These red tide occurrences are progressively impacting the health of humans, marine life, and other wildlife. Research also shows that the frequency of red tide occurrences imposes economic consequences on a variety of markets and industries.

When these brevetoxins begin to mix in the air in an aerosolized form, they cause a range of harmful health symptoms including breathing difficulties, chest pain, nausea, skin and eye irritation when they are present in or near the waters. These brevetoxins can kill fish, shellfish, and marine mammals as well.

Longboat Key receives permits for Canal 1A dredging

Permits in hand to dredge constricted waterway before larger project begins.

Longboat Key has plans to deepen where Canal 1A meets Sarasota Bay on the northern tip of the barrier island.

Sand from nearby beaches facing the Gulf of Mexico has filled the eastern spit of the Greer Island shoreline for years. Longboat Key town projects manager Charlie Mopps said the spit is blocking Canal 1A.

“Even since the time that I started with the town back in April of last year, it seems like it’s growing quicker,” Mopps said. “When I first got here, it wasn’t that bad, but then it just kind of accelerated the growth of the spit on the end of Greer Island, and so we have to do something.”

The town has permits in hand from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to dredge 1,000 cubic yards at the canal's entrance just east of the Longboat Pass bridge, according to Mopps. A typical dump truck holds about 10-14 cubic yards.

UCF Researchers Developing Models to Predict Storm Surges

In a study published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, researchers developed models to predict extreme changes in sea level by linking storm surges to large-scale climate variability that is related to changes in atmospheric pressure and the sea surface temperature, such as El Niño.

El Niño is a periodic warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean between Asia and South America that can affect weather around the globe.

UF/IFAS wants to hear from those impacted by the red tide of 2017-2019

GAINESVILLE – University of Florida researchers want to hear from marine businesses impacted by the 2018 red tide event that occurred between October of 2017 and January of 2019.

Respondents will have until Sept. 25 to complete the appropriate online questionnaire.

“We will run the surveys statewide with an initial focus of our analyses in Southwest Florida and then a longer, more detailed look at statewide results,” said Christa Court, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics and Florida Sea Grant affiliate faculty member, who is working on the survey with Andrew Ropicki, another UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics and Florida Sea Grant marine economics specialist.

Called the “Assessment of the Impacts of Florida’s 2018 Red Tide Event,” the survey focuses on the state’s marine industries, Court said.

“Though our initial focus is on Southwest Florida, we recognize there could have been impacts to other regions of Florida, as recreational activity of both tourists and local residents moved to non-affected areas,” she said. “Media coverage and the simultaneous occurrence of a blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee also could have influenced opinions on which parts of the state were impacted.”

Long-delayed Sarasota sewer project reaching the home stretch

The last phase involves some heavy neighborhood construction in south Sarasota.

SARASOTA – The construction of a long-delayed, over-budget Sarasota sewer project is finally nearing completion.

The Lift Station 87 project, originally budgeted at $12 million but now pushing about $52 million, is expected to handle one-third of Sarasota’s wastewater. The new design is expected to withstand a Category 3 hurricane.

The project will replace Lift Station 7 at 935 Pomelo Ave. and finish in early 2021.

On Tuesday, the project team gave an overview of the project’s final stretch – which involves some heavy construction in the neighborhoods of south Sarasota.

Expect continued road closures, access restrictions and blocked driveways for seven months or so. For updates, construction schedule and other information, visit liftstation87.com.

The two-story Lift Station 87 building exterior on 1900 Mound St. is nearly completed. You can see the brickwork and other architectural elements from the road and the station’s electrical system is ready to accept power to begin the startup process in March.

FDACS launches “Florida Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Program”

Last week, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) launched the Florida Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Program, a $2 million grant program to upgrade publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants with energy-efficient technology.

This new grant initiative was developed by the FDACS Office of Energy based on the findings of their study entitled “Mapping the Energy Landscape of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants in the State of Florida.”

This recently completed study provides a baseline on energy efficiency and renewable energy measures and practices at water and wastewater treatment plants in Florida, and recommendations on how to reduce energy use and operating costs. The study found that Florida’s wastewater treatment plants could save annually 26,763,827 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 6,354 tons of carbon dioxide through energy efficiency improvements.

Become an “Energy Coach” volunteer

Become an "Energy Coach" volunteer and help low-income residents save

Learn to help low-income residents save energy, water and money at home while building sustainable communities for generations to come, by becoming a Sarasota County "Energy Coach" volunteer.

Registration is now open at ufsarasotaext.eventbrite.com for this program, which launches Sept. 16 and includes 20 hours of training on energy and solar basics, building impacts on human health, conducting home energy audits and much more.

"As an Energy Coach volunteer, you can help underserved community members in Sarasota County, learn knowledge and skills you can apply in any home, help reduce emissions that influence climate change, and much more," said Sophia Moundous, sustainability outreach coordinator with Sarasota County's UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability department.

Four of every 10 Sarasota County households are cost-burdened, according to studies, with energy costs that consume up to 19 percent of their annual household income. This includes many affordable housing units, where inefficient construction and appliances can lead to high energy bills.

Such households often try to make ends meet by cutting costs in other vital areas, like nutrition and healthcare, leading to negative effects on health and family and financial stability.

The "Energy Upgrade Volunteer Training" workshop, held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on four consecutive Wednesdays, starting Sept. 16, aims to create a core of trained "Energy Coach" volunteers to support low-income residents through educational programs, in-home energy and water evaluations, and efficiency upgrades.

Training blends expert instruction, hands-on experience, and access to evaluation equipment, with workshop topics that include:

  • Green building basics
  • Solar energy basics
  • Energy equity
  • Building impacts on human health
  • Energy and water conservation techniques
  • How to perform energy evaluations
  • Hands-on, in-home energy installations
  • Low- and no-cost energy upgrade strategies
  • Financial assistance for energy improvements

The workshop cost includes educational training and materials, a required background check, and, upon workshop completion, an Energy Coach T-shirt. Participants must attend all four sessions. The option will be provided during registration to attend either in person or online via webinar. Note that COVID-19 safety guidelines might result in changes or postponement of some on-site training.

The program is open to any Sarasota County resident, with financial assistance available. Anyone interested in participating but concerned about the fee or any physical requirements can inquire by email to SustainableSarasota@scgov.net.

For more information about Energy Coach training, the Energy Upgrade program, or about other sustainability topics, contact Sophia Moundous, sustainability outreach coordinator, at smoundous@scgov.net or 941-861-9874.

Bradenton City Council joins horse debate

BRADENTON – The horseback riding operations along the Palma Sola Causeway on Manatee Avenue West are again under scrutiny, this time by Bradenton City Council members.

During an Aug. 19 emergency meeting, council members voted unanimously to have City Attorney Scott Rudacille look into what the city can do to help mitigate issues caused by the riding operations. Issues discussed include the damage to seagrass, which could potentially lead to erosion and cause damage to the roadway, pollution from animal excrement and safety hazards from having so many horses on the side of the road in an area where families come to relax on the beach.

The same issues were discussed the week before in a Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity meeting when two Palma Sola Bay residents, Robert Lombardo and Clif Gaus spoke. The two also appeared at the Bradenton City Council meeting.