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

Water-Related News

Florida looks to increase number of wetland mitigation banks, credits available to developers

The state has 131 wetlands mitigation banks available today.

Mitigation credits for wetlands, while still controversial among conservationists, remain a high-demand service in Florida. Meanwhile, the state only has so much space in existing banks.

Water quality officials told Florida lawmakers they intend to open another 30 sites on top of the 131 mitigation banks already in operation in Florida. Mitigation banks today cover almost 227,500 acres of land around the state.

“The bankers are out there hustling,” said Christine Wentzel, a regulatory manager for the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Developers under Florida law may offset the impacts of projects on wetlands by buying and maintaining areas near wetlands that can be restored to serve the same ecological purpose. In a presentation to the House Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee, Wentzel discussed how credits are calculated and defended the value of the program to the state’s ecology.

The state looks to grow the available number of mitigation banks as state and federal environmental officials navigate a changing legal environment. The U.S. Supreme Court in May issued a ruling governing what waters fall under the full legal purview of the United States.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency last month issued new guidelines based on that, but officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) remain in communication about jurisdictional matters.

Island mayors question Palma Sola Causeway resiliency

Island mayors are raising questions about resiliency on the Palma Sola Causeway, which was closed to traffic due to flooding associated with Hurricane Idalia.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie asked Sept. 11 whether the Florida Department of Transportation or the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization plan to look at the viability of the causeway.

Chappie raised the issue during a meeting of the Island Transportation Planning Organization at Anna Maria City Hall.

The ITPO consists of the island mayors, who meet prior to a meeting of the MPO, a regional transportation group that was scheduled to convene Sept. 18 in Sarasota. The chair of the ITPO serves as a voting member of the MPO and, currently, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy is chair.

Idalia passed the region Aug. 29-30, coinciding with a king tide that brought flooding on many local roads and shut down the causeway.

“It exposed a real problem,” Chappie said, noting the causeway is one of three approaches to the island.

He asked whether plans exist to elevate or fortify the causeway, a low stretch of Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 on Palma Sola Bay.

“We’re seeing considerably more washout,” said Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth. “It looks like it’s time to get it on a schedule.”

MPO executive director David Hutchinson said the causeway, as a bridge approach, is a high priority — “one of a number of high priorities.”

Flood Insurance discount available to residents of the City of Sarasota

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Property owners in the City of Sarasota’s jurisdiction can receive up to a 25% discount on National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) insurance.

The City of Sarasota is participating in the Community Rating System (CRS) sponsored by the NFIP. Communities earn points for floodplain management and educating property owners on how to reduce or avoid flood damage. The program is voluntary, and the points earned translate into flood insurance discounts.

This discount is available to residents regardless of if your property is in a high-risk flood zone. Renters can also purchase flood insurance for their belongings even if the property owner does not carry flood insurance on the building.

All property owners and renters should contact their local insurance agents for information on flood insurance.

Read Mayor Kyle Scott Battie's open letter to residents about the importance of flood insurance and visit for more information.

Learn More about protecting your property from flood.

Biden administration restores the power of states and tribes to review projects to protect waterways

States and Native American tribes will have greater authority to block energy projects such as natural gas pipelines that could pollute rivers and streams under a final rule issued Thursday by the Biden administration.

The rule, which takes effect in November, reverses a Trump-era action that limited the ability of states and tribes to review pipelines, dams and other federally regulated projects within their borders. The Environmental Protection Agency says the new regulation will empower local authorities to protect rivers and streams while supporting infrastructure projects that create jobs.

“We actually think this is going to be great for the country,” said Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for water. “It’s going to allow us to balance the Biden administration goals of protecting our water resources and also supporting all kinds of infrastructure projects that this nation so desperately needs.”

But Fox acknowledged at a briefing that the water rule will be significantly slimmed down from an earlier proposal because of a Supreme Court ruling that weakened regulations protecting millions of acres of wetlands. That ruling, in a case known as Sackett v. EPA, sharply limited the federal government’s jurisdiction over wetlands, requiring that wetlands be more clearly connected to other waters such as oceans and rivers. Environmental advocates said the May decision would strip protections from tens of millions of acres of wetlands.

The secret life of dolphins: What 50 years of research is uncovering in Sarasota Bay

An exclusive look into the world's longest-running dolphin research program

SARASOTA COUNTY – The Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program is the longest-running study of bottlenose dolphins in the world. Launching in 1970, the research is invaluable in protecting this unique creature.

ABC Action News received federal approval to go on the water with the team. The research shows us that dolphins call Sarasota Bay home, living in the area and raising calves for generations upon generations.

"This really is their home across generations, across decades, we still have individuals that we've been seeing that I first identified back in the 1970s," Dr. Randall Wells, Director of the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, said. "(We know) who they're related to, how old they are, what sex they are, who they spend their time with, or who they should be spending your time with, who's had a calf, what status, what the status of that calf might be, and what kind of activity they're engaged in."

Dr. Wells co-founded the program after starting as an assistant to Dr. Blair Irvine.

There are 170 resident bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay. Each has a unique story of survival.

Researchers: Coastal ecosystems will drown if world warms above 2°C

After studying more than 1,500 coastal ecosystems, researchers say they will drown if we let the world warm above 2°C

Much of the world's natural coastline is protected by living habitats, most notably mangroves in warmer waters and tidal marshes closer to the poles. These ecosystems support fisheries and wildlife, absorb the impact of crashing waves and clean up pollutants. But these vital services are threatened by global warming and rising sea levels.

Recent research has shown wetlands can respond to sea level rise by building up their root systems, pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process. Growing recognition of the potential for this "blue" carbon sequestration is driving mangrove and tidal marsh restoration projects.

While the resilience of these ecosystems is impressive, it is not without limits. Defining the upper limits to mangrove and marsh resilience under accelerating sea level rise is a topic of great interest and considerable debate.

Our new research, published in the journal Nature, analyzes the vulnerability and exposure of mangroves, marshes and coral islands to sea level rise. The results underscore the critical importance of keeping global warming within 2 degrees of the pre-industrial baseline.

Longboat’s beaches withstood Idalia’s surge, but flooding still prevailed. How?

The beaches helped protect Longboat Key's gulf side, but bayfront properties don't share those same protections.

Walking onto the Gulfside Road beach access, a recently unearthed seawall stands out among a row of large rocks.

Before Hurricane Idalia, people may not have even realized there was a seawall buried there.

This was one of the most striking differences in the beach that Longboat Key resident Cyndi Seamon saw after the storm.

Seamon is also vice president of the Longboat Key Turtle Watch. She was on the beach before and after the storm conducting turtle patrols.

Near where she lives on the north end, Seamon said she noticed a lot of the beach was lower and sand moved to the dunes.

“We just noticed how much water the dune system held,” Seamon said. “It’s amazing how well they do.”

Further south, she noticed more of an escarpment, where sand steeply drops between the dune and beach face.

What impressed Seamon, though, was how well the beaches — and the vegetation — did the job of holding up against storm surge.

Mote Marine Lab hosts workshop on red tide mitigation tools

MML logo

Mote hosts workshop to discuss deployment of mitigation tools for Florida red tide

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium recently invited researchers from around the world to discuss mitigation tools and technologies for the harmful algal bloom (HAB) that affects many communities across the state – Florida red tide – as part of its Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative.

Mote hosted the workshop where Florida red tide mitigation scientists, engineers, and government agencies, gathered to review the current research being developed, discuss options for deployment technologies, understand the regulatory steps and agencies involved, and plan for intellectual property and commercialization issues that may arise.

Red tides are caused by higher-than-normal concentrations of Karenia brevis (microscopic algae native to the Gulf of Mexico), often discoloring the water in the ocean and coastal waters of southwest Florida. K. brevis produces toxins that can harm sea life, lead to massive fish kills, and cause respiratory irritation in people. Florida red tides can also have detrimental effects on shellfish, fishing and tourism industries.

The Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative, a partnership between Mote and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), was established by the Florida Legislature and signed by Governor DeSantis in 2019 to establish an independent and coordinated effort among public and private research entities to develop prevention, control and mitigation technologies that will decrease the impacts of Florida red tide on the environment, economy and quality of life in Florida.

"With support from the State of Florida for this initiative, researchers are empowered to present their solutions and collaborate through applied science and engineering to fight red tide while stimulating Florida’s economy through technology transfer that helps transform ecological challenge to economic opportunity,” said Mote President and CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “This cross-disciplinary team effort across many institutions is key to developing innovation solutions for communities acro

Greer (Beer Can) Island accessible again via Canal 1A

First shorebirds and sea turtles caused delays, then an abandoned power line slowed work down.

Canal 1A on the north end of Longboat Key is traversable again.

The latest maintenance dredging of Longboat Key’s Greer Island Spit Management Project officially wrapped up on Sept. 7.

About 19,000 cubic yards of sand were dredged from the canal and relocated to the groin field toward the end of North Shore Road.

The now dredged canal also allows for boat owners to freely navigate to the Gulf and restores their riparian rights.

According to Public Works Program Manager Charlie Mopps, the project had just about wrapped up before Hurricane Idalia made its way towards Florida’s coast.

The crew was in the process of demobilization and doing some final surveys, which showed the dredging was near completion.

Flesh-eating bacteria lurk in post-hurricane floodwaters. Here’s how to stay safe.

Cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection tend to rise after hurricanes mix fresh rainwater with salty seawater.

In the wake of Hurricane Idalia, health officials warned of a invisible threat in the lingering floodwaters: Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.

The warning comes as serious infections from the bacteria are on the rise, tied to warming coastal waters. On Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control issued an alert to health care providers to consider Vibrio as a possible cause of infected wounds, noting several severe and fatal cases in Connecticut, New York and North Carolina.

The rare and potentially deadly type of flesh-eating bacterium "shouldn't be taken lightly," Florida Health Department press secretary Jae Williams said. "It needs to be treated with proper respect — the same way we respect alligators and rattlesnakes."

Florida health officials started alerting residents of the potential for such bacterial infections "as soon as the state of emergency was declared," Williams said, referring to Hurricane Idalia.

Coastal areas of the state, as well as Georgia and the Carolinas, where Idalia's surges left behind standing water, were most at risk for Vibrio bacteria.

NASA scientists test new tool for tracking algal blooms

Harmful algae can endanger public health and coastal ecosystems and economies. Advances in satellite imaging are providing new ways to look at our living ocean.

By the time they were over, a series of massive algal blooms along the west coast of Florida in 2020 would be linked to some 2,000 tons of dead marine life around Tampa Bay. The human costs were stark, too, including a double-digit increase in asthma cases in Sarasota and Pinellas counties, and estimated losses of around $1 billion across economic sectors from tourism to fisheries.

Earth-orbiting satellites have been used for decades to detect algal blooms from space, enabling more frequent observations over broader areas than is possible by directly sampling the water. The most common observing technique relies on the visible spectrum to measure ocean color. However, this approach has been mostly restricted to clear sky conditions.

A recent study, led by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, has shown how one space-based instrument called TROPOMI, or TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument, was able to peer through thin clouds to uncover powerful clues about Karenia brevis (or K. brevis), the microscopic algae responsible for the 2020 blooms. TROPOMI’s enhanced ability to “see” and measure fine wavelengths of light could potentially help federal agencies and local communities better forecast and manage harmful outbreaks. (TROPOMI flies aboard the European Sentinel 5P spacecraft, which was launched in 2017.)

The scientists examined the West Florida Shelf, a stretch of continental crust arcing from the Panhandle to the Keys. From its origins in other parts of the Gulf of Mexico, K. brevis is carried toward the coastline on strong winds and ocean currents. Recent research has shown that western Florida, like many coastal communities, may be increasingly vulnerable to outbreaks because these algae flourish in nutrient-rich, warm conditions fueled by runoff, fertilizer, and climate change.

Carl Hiaasen to headline upcoming EcoSummit in Sarasota

Nature and culture set the stage for December events during the two-day expo.

Discussion of environmental issues and sustainability practices at December’s Green Living Expo and EcoSummit won’t be purely scientific, especially with Carl Hiaasen on hand.

The event will be run by the Science and Environment Council, a not-for-profit consortium of 40 science-based environmental organizations in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The two-segment event kicks off with a free, two-day Green Living Expo on Dec. 2-3 at Sarasota’s Municipal Auditorium featuring green solutions for energy conservation, water protection, waste reduction and more. Entry is free with advanced registration, and $5 per group at the door.

The three-day EcoSummit opens from 5-8 p.m. Dec. 4 with a free screening of Australian filmmaker’s Damon Gameau’s documentary, “2040” at the Bay Park’s Nest.

On Dec. 5-6, the EcoSummit moves indoors to the VanWezel Performing Arts Hall.

Florida Stories with Carl Hiaasen is planned for 7-9 p.m. Dec. 5. The longtime author and Miami Herald columnist will be introduced by Craig Pittman, himself an award-winning Florida journalist. The two writers will be joined on stage by local storytellers and a musical guest.

EcoSummit ticket options range from $155 for the summit; $185 for premium, which includes the Hiaasen event; and $285, which includes a pre-show reception and premium seating. An early registration discount of $40, using the code HOTSALE40, is available through Sept. 30. Standalone tickets to see Hiaasen are $85 for general admission and $185, which includes pre-show reception and premium seating.

The EcoSummit will feature lectures, panel discussions, storytelling, and music. Dozens of national, regional, and local experts will share innovations on reducing environmental impacts and encouraging more sustainable practices.

“Over the past century in Florida, population growth and development patterns have increased pollution and decreased the environment’s capacity to process it,” said Dr. Jennifer Shafer, SEC’s co-executive director. “Our natural environment is the foundation of our economy and quality of life; by working together to educate and activate the community, we hope to bolster efforts to conserve and restore our treasured natural resources — and protect quality of life for generations to come.”

Other associated events include family-friendly Ever-GREEN Days at The Bay Sarasota, with a weeklong schedule of free interactive and eco-friendly experiences — such as guided tours, hands-on eco-education, family friendly activities and more – from Nov. 30-Dec. 6.

For information and tickets, visit the EcoSummit website.

Supply chain delays Anna Maria Island Bridge water main work

One step forward, two steps back.

Additional work to replace a temporary water main across the Anna Maria Island Bridge on Manatee Avenue was postponed by the county to late September or October due to delays in acquiring materials, according to a Sept. 1 news release.

The news came just over a week after an Aug. 23 announcement that Bradenton-based Lovin Contracting would begin work on the repairs Sept. 6, and take two-three weeks to complete.

The postponed work involves the temporary pipeline installed across the bridge in June to replace the failed 16-inch water main that carried potable water from the mainland to Holmes Beach.

The previous water main was installed in 1982 and collapsed into Anna Maria Sound in July due to corrosion and failing hangers on the east end.

After its collapse, Bradenton-based Woodruff & Sons installed a new pipeline across the bridge to carry potable water to Holmes Beach.

The postponed work will involve the installation of about 90 additional pipeline support hangers along the eastern half of the bridge, where the existing, original water main remains hanging along the bridge undercarriage.

The temporary pipeline is positioned on top of the western half of the bridge’s south sidewalk, where it will remain for about two years before a subaqueous pipeline is installed to replace the water main.

People can learn more on the county government’s website, or by calling 941-748-4501.

No-swim advisory issued for Palma Sola beach after countywide swim advisory lifted

MANATEE COUNTY – A no-swim advisory was issued for a Manatee County beach Sunday, the same day the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County lifted the countywide swim advisory for public beaches.

The no-swim advisory is for Palma Sola South, located along SR 64 near Palma Sola Bay. A no-swim advisory is issued when enterococci bacteria levels exceed federal guidelines for safe swimming.

The advisory will be in effect until the water meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety guidelines.

The swim advisory for Manatee County was issued Friday due to the potential effects on water quality related to Hurricane Idalia.

Other beaches in Manatee County, including Bayfront Park North, Manatee Public Beach, Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach (North and South), and Broadway Beach Access on Longboat Key, are not under advisory.

For updates, visit the Florida Healthy Beaches webpage for Manatee County.

The EPA removes federal protections for most of the country’s wetlands

The Environmental Protection Agency removed federal protections for a majority of the country's wetlands on Tuesday to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The EPA and Department of the Army announced a final rule amending the definition of protected "waters of the United States" in light of the decision in Sackett v. EPA in May, which narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act and the agency's power to regulate waterways and wetlands.

Developers and environmental groups have for decades argued about the scope of the 1972 Clean Water Act in protecting waterways and wetlands.

"While I am disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision in the Sackett case, EPA and Army have an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, Tribes, and partners," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

A 2006 Supreme Court decision determined that wetlands would be protected if they had a "significant nexus" to major waterways. This year's court decision undid that standard. The EPA's new rule "removes the significant nexus test from consideration when identifying tributaries and other waters as federally protected," the agency said.

In May, Justice Samuel Alito said the navigable U.S. waters regulated by the EPA under the Clean Water Act do not include many previously regulated wetlands. Writing the court's decision, he said the law includes only streams, oceans, rivers and lakes, and wetlands with a "continuous surface connection to those bodies."

What’s the connection between climate change and hurricanes?

Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida. Here are some ways climate change is reshaping tropical cyclones like it

It has been a summer of disasters–and many of them were made worse, or more intense, by human-caused climate change. Wildfires burned from coast to coast across Canada. Vermont was inundated by unprecedented floods. Phoenix's temperatures topped 100 ° F for a full month. And now Hurricane Idalia, the first major hurricane of the season, is ripping across Florida and into the Southeast.

Scientists know climate change influences hurricanes, but exactly how can be a little complicated. Here's a look at the links between a hotter world and big storms like Hurricane Idalia.

For answers to these questions, follow the link below:

  • Does climate change make hurricanes stronger?
  • Climate change makes them get bigger faster, right?
  • Does climate change make hurricanes happen more often?
  • What are some of the biggest risks from stronger hurricanes? Are those changing because of climate change?
  • Is hurricane season getting longer?
  • It has been pretty hot in the South and the Gulf region. How will that influence the rest of the season?