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

Water-Related News

Fighting red tide with nature: Could clams be the key to fighting red tide?

Red tide is a part of living on the Gulf coast.

While it’s clearing up in Southwest Florida, research is underway to lessen its impact in the future.

After looking at the history and the issue, Florida TaxWatch found the state should consider reintroducing southern hard clams to Southwest Florida estuaries.

“This is just one important tool in the toolkit that should be used. And it could also further, you know, enhance areas like the Tampa Bay region, and help coastal restoration activities,” Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

FGCU Water School’s James Douglass said clams and oysters can help cut down the algae levels in the water.

“If they’re healthy, should be able to do that filtering and we need to take care of our oysters and clams, our natural oysters and clams to make sure they can do their job,” Douglass said.

Red tide gone from Manatee, Sarasota county beaches

Low to medium levels of the harmful algae bloom were still found in Pinellas County waters.

SARASOTA – After months of sitting in the sand next to dead fish or watching the sunset with a tickle in your throat, red tide has finally subsided in some Tampa Bay area beaches.

For the first time in months, red tide has not been detected at beaches in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Karenia brevis, the organism that causes the harmful algal bloom known as red tide, was not found in any of the latest samples pulled Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in those areas.

Though conditions have gotten better for most Tampa Bay area waterways, we're not completely in the clear just yet.

Low to medium levels of the harmful algae bloom were still found in Pinellas County waters, while medium to high levels were detected in the latest Pasco County samples.

There are ways to help protect manatees in SWFL

International Manatee Day is a time to focus on important members of our ecosystem in Southwest Florida and how to protect them. Manatee deaths have already passed a record in 2021, and the year isn’t over yet.

There are steps that can be taken in the water and on land to help protect manatees.

By easing up on fertilizers and other yard chemicals, people can help reduce pollutants entering our waterways and killing the food manatees need to survive.

Manatee deaths in Florida are at an all-time high with at least 929 deaths so far this year.

Warm Mineral Springs Park has reopened

Warm Mineral Springs Park (12200 San Servando Ave.), including main admission and the gift shop building, reopened to the public on Friday, September 3.

The City of North Port contracts with National and State Park Concessions, Inc., to operate the natural spring and its facilities, and the park had to be temporarily closed due to Covid impacts on their staffing.

The expiration date for all valid passes will be extended for the ten days the facility was closed.

For more information, please call (941) 426-1692 or visit www.CityOfNorthPort.com/WarmMineralSpringsPark.

Sarasota County Red Tide Update, Sept. 7th

Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) staff continue to monitor and assess public beaches and access points for seaweed accumulation and red tide impacts. See below for today’s conditions report:

TUESDAY, Sept. 7  
PRNR staff continued to see improved conditions throughout the weekend, reporting mostly no fills kills or aerosol impacts. This morning, PRNR staff evaluated public beaches and access points, reporting mostly no marine debris nor respiratory irritation.

Following the Beach Cleaning Policy, Sarasota County remains committed the removal of fish kills from red tide exposure, on public beaches and access points. During the past month, extra dumpsters were provided at Siesta Beach, Turtle Beach, Access 5 and Access 7 for private land owners to deposit fish kills from their property. With the improved conditions, these dumpsters will be removed from the public parks after today, Sept. 7. Should red tide impacts resurface, PRNR staff will reevaluate the option of temporary dumpsters.

County staff continue to monitor and evaluate public beaches and access points each morning to determine if conditions meet the beach cleaning policy threshold. Community members are encouraged to register for the Red Tide Newsletter by clicking the red button on the top right of  scgov.net/redtide, check daily beach conditions at visitbeaches.org, or click here to view the daily Red Tide status report

Longboat Key awaits FDEP feedback for pipeline reassessment

Longboat Key leaders are working with state regulators on a series of planned inspections of the town’s sewage link to the mainland following the June 2020 pipeline break and spill of millions of gallons of effluent in Manatee County.

The town is waiting for feedback from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on the inspection plans and will proceed with the 10-month project once given the go-ahead.

The town is proposing a two-step inspection, beginning with a remote-controlled device that's inserted into the sewage flow on the Longboat Key side and examines the pipeline on its voyage to the Manatee County treatment plant. Following the examination, data will be compared to a similar inspection done in 2016.

“As it’s traversing the pipeline, it identifies areas where they may be gas pockets or other anomalies,” Public Works Director Isaac Brownman said, adding accumulations of potentially corrosive hydrogen sulfide would be cause for further study.

“It’s important just to note if it’s occurring,” Brownman said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean the pipe is corroding in that location.”

The pipeline will also be inspected for external corrosion.

Beyond that, divers could be employed to visually inspect or perform other methods of inspection.

Volunteers needed for Tidy Island planting project Sept. 25th

New College of Florida and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program seek volunteers to help plant native plants on Tidy Island, a large mangrove peninsula in upper Sarasota Bay.

The Project

The most extensive mangrove swamp in Sarasota Bay, located at Tidy Island, is deeded to New College for teaching and research. Until 2021, much of the uplands areas were carpeted with invasive exotic plants that reduced the area's habitat value for wildlife. With a grant from the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program, New College of Florida and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program removed 12 acres of exotic vegetation. Now, we need volunteer help to replant the area with native plants.

Access

The planting site is not accessible by land and there is no motorized boat parking available, so we will shuttle volunteers from the Coquina South Boat Ramp. Shuttle spots are limited. Paddlers may pull boats ashore on Tidy Island. Please make sure to choose the correct ticket type when you register.

What to Expect

Volunteers should be prepared for a hot, sunny, and buggy day of shoveling and planting.

Court vacates NWPR, is still weighing WOTUS restoration

A federal judge on Monday tossed out a Trump-era rule that rolled back water pollution protections, but is still weighing whether to restore Obama-era protections or simply undo the Trump rollback to return to pre-Obama regulations. In a court order, Judge Rosemary Márquez, an Obama appointee, vacated the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), which governed which bodies of water get protection from pollution. Márquez remanded the rule for reconsideration to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Trump administration in 2019 repealed an Obama-era rule known as the Waters of the United States Rule, which expanded federal protections for smaller waterways.

And last year, the former administration put forward an additional rule, the NWPR, that reversed some protections, including for wetlands, that had been in place for decades.

The 2020 rule is the one that Márquez tossed and gave parties to a lawsuit challenging it 30 days to file proposals about what to do about the repeal rule.

The decision comes as the Biden administration seeks to revise the rule and asked the court to send the Trump rule back to it for reconsideration.

Sarasota County Red Tide Update, Aug. 31

Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) staff continue to monitor and assess public beaches and access points for seaweed accumulation and red tide impacts. See below for today’s conditions report:

TUESDAY, AUG. 31

Today, PRNR staff evaluated public beaches and access points, reporting mostly minor marine debris. Beach raking occurred on Venice Island and Siesta Key.

County staff continue to monitor and evaluate public beaches and access points each morning to determine if conditions meet the beach cleaning policy threshold. Regular beach combing take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Siesta Beach, and Thursday on Lido Beach.

Community members are encouraged to register for the Red Tide Newsletter by clicking the red button on the top right of scgov.net/redtide, check daily beach conditions at visitbeaches.org, or click here to view the daily Red Tide status report.

One month remaining in this year’s fertilizer restricted season

fertilizer ad

Rivendell Community’s passion protects its ponds

Sue Remy

The Rivendell Community is passionate about nature and wildlife, especially resident Sue Remy. Rivendell is adjacent to Oscar Scherer State Park. Residents take pride in keeping the community healthy for local wildlife. To aid in this, Rivdenell established a Ponds and Preserves Committee, which Sue is a member of. The Ponds and Preserves Committee has improved their neighborhood through a pilot pond filled with water-friendly native plants. This pilot pond has been an example of new bird habitat and the reintroduction of native plants to the neighborhood.

Sue contributes part of the pond program's success, and subsequent nature walks, to the Rivendell Board. With the help of the Board, Sue was able to recommend and implement a standing rule in the community for native plantings in all the neighborhood ponds. She ensures that Rivendell residents stay engaged and up to date with the health of their ponds through newsletters, events, and nature walks. Click below to learn more about the Rivendell Ponds and Preserves Committee.

Photo: Sue Remy, Sarasota County Neighborhood Services "Neighbor of the Month"

Longboat Key limiting public parking for beach renourishment

The town of Longboat Key is limiting public parking starting Monday [Aug. 30] at Broadway Street and North Shore Road for beach renourishment.

Town Projects Manager Charlie Mopps said the limited parking would last three to five weeks.

“The dredge was on its way to us from Louisiana and had to pull in to Mobile, Alabama, to sea conditions related to Hurricane Ida,” Mopps wrote in an email. “So, they’re expecting the dredge to arrive a week later.”

Public Works Director Isaac Brownman explained the need to limit public parking. 

“Our primary contractor, which is Weeks Marine, will be coming back to pump sand onto the beaches between the new (rock groin) structures,” Brownman said. “The contractor is going to need those areas on North Shore Road to stage earth-moving equipment because once they pump sand onto the beach, they need to move it around with large pieces of equipment and place it properly.”

The town also limited public beach parking on North Shore Road between late July and Aug. 9 for beach renourishment.

Anyone wanting to track the town’s beach renourishment project can visit Olsen Associates’ website.

Registration open for 2021 Sarasota Bay Water Quality Restoration Workshop

SBEP logo

On October 5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) will host a virtual workshop to accelerate water quality recovery in Sarasota Bay with presentations from local governments & community innovators.

This virtual workshop will feature presentations from local government representatives and community innovators. We'll hear about projects that aim to reduce pollution entering the bay through infrastructure and nature-based solutions. Q&A sessions and interactive polling will engage the virtual audience.

Registration for the event is open now (link below). In the weeks leading up to the event, SBEP will send participants a final agenda and a link to join the meeting.

Questions? Contact us at (941) 955-8085 or info@sarasotabay.org.

Blue-Green Algae Task Force talks stormwater at virtual meeting

Stormwater headlined Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task force meeting Monday, with more than 250 tuning in to hear the online discussion.

Gov. Ron DeSantis mandated the five-member group in 2019, shortly after he took office, as part of a sweeping executive order designed to improve Florida’s water quality. His order included $2.5 billion for Everglades restoration and water protections — the highest level of such funding in the state’s history — and created the algae task force as well as the new position that oversees the group’s workings, the state’s chief science officer, currently University of South Florida Professor Mark Rains.

Rains kicked off Monday’s meeting by recapping its key accomplishments so far, before moving to the topic at hand.

“This task force under my predecessor, Dr. Tom Frazer, produced a consensus document that had a number of recommendations about what were the causes of water quality degradation,” he said. “Many of those recommendations went directly into SB 712, the Clean Waterways Act, and I think there’s a role for the Blue-Green Algae task force to play – kind of re-inserting themselves in that conversation along the way – as policies and practices change, and making sure that what was said in the consensus document is tracking all the way through to the actual changes of policy and practice.”

Water quality concerns stir up citrus BMP and phosphorus questions

As blue-green algae makes headlines again this summer, fertilizer from farms and urban sources are again under scrutiny. Last year, the state legislature passed the Clean Waterways Act to address continuing challenges with water quality.

The 111-page bill addresses agriculture, using biosolids as fertilizer, regulation of septic tanks, wastewater treatment systems, enhanced penalties, and other rules. It is part of the governor’s multibillion-dollar plan to improve the state’s water quality.

The BMP (Best Management Practices) Program for agriculture also saw some enhancements. The law requires that BMP manuals be updated more regularly to include current science. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) will now be required to collect and keep growers’ nutrient program records, with a particular focus on nitrogen and phosphorus. In the past, records of growers who are enrolled in the BMP Program were reviewed but not collected. Under the new law, growers have to fill out a Nutrient Application Report Form. These forms can be turned over to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The law also instructs FDACS to have on-site verification visits to farms at least every two years to confirm BMPs are being followed.

Sarasota County Red Tide Update, Aug. 24

Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) staff continue to monitor and assess public beaches and access points for seaweed accumulation and red tide impacts. See below for today’s conditions report:

TUESDAY, AUG. 24

Today, PRNR staff evaluated public beaches and access points, reporting mostly minor marine debris and respiratory irritation throughout the county. Red Tide beach cleanup operations are planned for Venice, Manasota and Siesta Beaches today.

County staff continue to monitor and evaluate public beaches and access points each morning to determine if conditions meet the beach cleaning policy threshold. Regular beach combing take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Siesta Beach, and Thursday on Lido Beach.

Community members are encouraged to register for the Red Tide Newsletter by clicking the red button on the top right of scgov.net/redtide, check daily beach conditions at visitbeaches.org, or click here to view the daily Red Tide status report