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Water-Related News

Longboat Key looks to combat north-end erosion

Longboat Key is considering emergency beach renourishment for the north end of the island, an erosion-prone area that’s experienced increased deterioration since Hurricane Irma, according to Public Works officials.

Sand on the beach north of Broadway Street has disappeared at an accelerated rate as a result of a high “intensity” of storms and tides since waves and tides connected with the hurricane hit Sept. 10, said Public Works Project Manager James Linkogle.

Linkogle said he visits the north end of the beach at least every other week to take pictures, taking note of the rate of erosion near two groins at the end of North Shore Road. Those groins, which were installed with sand fill in 2015, were designed and constructed to keep sand from being washed off the north-shore beach.

Manatee County supports Guthrie net camp

CORTEZ – The Manatee County Commission has voted to support Raymond Guthrie Jr. in his fight to keep the net camp structure he built in Sarasota Bay last year on what he says is submerged land where his family once had a net camp.

The commission voted on March 20 to send a letter of support for the structure to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which has ordered Guthrie, known locally as “Junior,” to tear it down.

DEP claims that a title search shows that the state owns the submerged land under the unpermitted, 1200-square-foot structure in Sarasota Bay, an Outstanding Florida Waterbody.

Cortez commercial fishermen long used net camps – wooden shacks built on pilings in the water – to mend, clean and store cotton fishing nets; attached net “spreads” were used to hang the nets to dry. They declined in use when netmakers began using polyester, and were made obsolete by the 1994 Florida gill net ban.

“Included in the National Register of Historic Places, the net camps played an inseparable part of the gill and stop net fisheries trade within the historic village. Reconstruction of these historic structures provides the appropriate viewshed to understand the cultural context of the village,” according to the commission’s letter to DEP. “Given historic photos documenting the presence of multiple net camp structures, the reconstruction of this single structure to recapture the essence of the historic Cortez fishing community should be supported with the appropriate state permits.”

According to historic photographs, dozens of net camps once dotted the bay off Cortez, similar to the one built by the Cortez not-for-profit Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) as a historic artifact just east of Guthrie’s structure.

Holmes Beach warned coastal erosion issues are ‘real’

The cost of the rising tide will be “painful” and “sobering.”

Half of Holmes Beach will be inundated by coastal waters by the year 2040 if nothing is done to stem the tide through improved stormwater management and other solutions, according to city engineer Lynn Burnett.

Storm evacuation routes would be swallowed up, too, Burnett told city commissioners at their April 10 work session.

Since 1984, the water level surrounding Holmes Beach has risen 8 inches, according to Burnett, and it’s not expected to recede.

“This isn’t a fallacy,” said Burnett, a Holmes Beach native. “This isn’t some theory. This has nothing to do with the global-warming dispute. It has to do with the reality of times that I’ve watched high tide come over our existing seawalls and flood our evacuation routes.”

Commissioner Jim Kihm asked how much water will be in his yard by the year 2060.

“Is it all dry land?” Kihm asked. “Do we still have wet streets?”

Holmes Beach is a coastal community bounded on the west by the Gulf of Mexico and the east by Anna Maria Sound and Sarasota Bay. Yet its antiquated stormwater system is inadequate to handle runoff within the incorporated limits, said Burnett.

Making the problem more acute, the three Anna Maria Island cities are millions of dollars short of implementing needed defenses. You need revenue sources to pay for solutions, she said.

New private beach law carries implications in Anna Maria

Related: Anna Maria attorney points out private beach pitfalls »

After two weeks of scrambling to understand the ramifications, a new law shouldn’t pose a problem for Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach officials. But that may not be the case in Anna Maria.

Officials in the three island cities are still searching for copies of the erosion control line established in 1992 and maps with the established mean high tide lines, which were surveyed in conjunction with a 1992 beach renourishment project.

But Mayor John Chappie said April 9 privatizing any section of the beach in Bradenton Beach is “absolutely out.”

Chappie said “all of Bradenton Beach” has been renourished — the work completed in 2017 — and it does not fall under bill HB631 signed into law March 30. The Possession of Real Property Act allows for landowners to privatize the beach at their property seaward to the mean high tide line. Beach renourishment projects supersede the new law, making the beach public wherever renourishment occurred.

Holmes Beach, likewise, will have little or no effect due to the law. The Gulf beaches from the Bradenton Beach line to the Anna Maria city limits are renourished.

According to city engineer Lynn Burnett, the erosion control line, or ECL sits far up in the sand, generally along the vegetation or dune line in Holmes Beach.

Landowners most likely would be legally challenged by the city if public use of the beach is questioned. The new law requires cities and counties to go to court to designate privately owned beaches as public under a claim of customary use.

Climate change consequences are catastrophic, speakers at Sarasota event warn

SARASOTA — Climate change is the single greatest crisis humanity has ever faced, an alarming assertion made Tuesday by Los Angeles-based investigative journalist Dick Russell to a crowd of more than 100 at the Suncoast Climate Change Symposium.

Russell, who wrote “Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which introduces readers to energy moguls who are said to have contributed to the climate change crisis, cautioned the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium crowd that if the world fails to try to combat climate change, sea level rise will erase some coastal cities like Miami from the map. Hurricanes, fueled by increasingly warmer waters because of global warming, will become more intense and harsher, and longer nor’easters will slam the the northeast, leaving death and destruction in their paths.

Some swaths of the world, including parts of the U.S., will eventually become uninhabitable because of blistering temperatures, Russell said, adding 2017 was the third hottest year ever recorded.

“I hope that what I talked about today was alarming, but not ultimately so devastating that you won’t do anything, because believe me, this is the most serious situation that humanity has faced,” Russell warned.

Russell applauded the city of Sarasota for acknowledging climate change and taking action to offset and prevent its devastating effects. Trump Administration policies, however, have been counter-intuitive, Russell said. The White House is seeking to cut more than $2.5 billion from the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency — an overall reduction of more than 23 percent.

No, Anna Maria Island beaches aren't going private in July

MANATEE – Bradenton's beaches aren't going private.

Because of efforts to control erosion, parts of Anna Maria Island that have been renourished aren't affected by a new state law.

Yet confusion has muddled the meaning of "Possession of Real Property," the new law that dictates how governments can establish customary use. In this case, if "an activity has continued for a long time without interruption," such as beach bums parking their chairs on dry sand, then there is legal standing for such an activity to continue, according to a memo from the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association.

The law, which goes into effect July 1, "prohibits a governmental entity from adopting or keeping in effect an ordinance or rule establishing customary use of privately owned dry sand areas," the memo reads.

HUD sending additional $791 million to Florida for hurricane recovery

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will send $791 million to Florida through its Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program to help homes and buildings damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Matthew.

U.S. HUD Sec. Ben Carson made the announcement on Tuesday morning. HUD sent $616 million to Florida back in November to help hurricane recovery efforts.

“It’s clear that a number of states and local communities are still struggling to recover from a variety of natural disasters that occurred in the past three years,” Carson said. “These grants will help rebuild communities impacted by past disasters and will also protect them from major disasters in the future.”

Most of the money, almost $633.5 million, will go to support “mitigation activities” which HUD describes as "actions taken to protect people and property from the predictable damage from future events and can include elevating homes, property buyouts, and hardening structures from wind and water." Almost $550 million of that is in response to disasters from 2017 with the remainder, almost $84 million, in response to disasters from 2016. More than $158 million has been set aside to restore homes, businesses and infrastructure that were damaged by the storms.

HUD will issue more guidelines on how the CDBG-DR Program funds will be spent in the coming weeks. The state will now craft a disaster recovery plan which will include recommendations with local and citizen input on how the funds will be spent.

Schedule change announced for beach nourishment

Pinellas County Coastal Management has announced a schedule change to the 2018 Sand Key and Treasure Island Beach Nourishment Project.

Norfolk Dredging has informed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it is changing the order in which it will nourishes the beaches. The contractor now intends, after filling the Treasure Island segments, to move the dredge to Clearwater and fill the beach from north to south, ending in Redington Beach.

Norfolk Dredging was awarded the project last September and expects to start pumping sand onto the beach April 23. Sunshine and Sunset Beaches will be filled first with sand dredged from John’s Pass. After the equipment is relocated, Ultimar Condos in Clearwater will be filled with sand dredged from the Egmont Shoal Borrow area. Construction will then proceed south to Redington Beach and should be finished by the end of the year.

Beach nourishment benefits the community by providing increased storm protection for property owners and recreational opportunities for beach visitors. It also creates important habitat for shorebirds and nesting sea turtles. The project aligns with Pinellas County’s strategic goal of practicing superior environmental stewardship by preserving and managing environmental lands, beach parks and historical assets.

For more information, including a project fact sheet, PowerPoint presentation and an updated schedule, visit the link below.

Manatee County planning board gives nod to suburb

MANATEE COUNTY — A proposal for a gated, 600-home subdivision on land the city of Bradenton intends to sell next to its reservoir and water treatment plant cleared an initial hurdle Thursday.

The Manatee County Planning Commission voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the development plan submitted by building firm Taylor Morrison. Planning Commissioner Paul Rutledge was absent.

The County Commission will have the final say on May 3.

Planning Commissioner Al Horrigan cast the dissenting vote. Horrigan said Natalie Way, which dead ends at the property several miles from the city limits, should be extended south to create a new north-south connection between State Road 70 and Honore Avenue. He noted that the proposed subdivision’s two exits will put all of its vehicles on Honore Avenue.

“This commission has to be a planning commission,” Horrigan told other board members. He noted that gridlock frequently occurs on Honore Avenue and Interstate 75. “At some point in time, we have to fix this traffic issue. ... How are we going to get people moving north and south?”

Planners noted that, in a 2005 agreement pertaining to the extension of Honore Avenue, the city granted right of way for the road project in exchange for the county agreeing not to designate Natalie Way as a thoroughfare through the city’s property. For security and pollution control reasons, the city did not want a public thoroughfare too close to its water supply and treatment plant.

When that agreement was made, “it wasn’t anticipated there would be 600 homes on this site,” Horrigan countered.

Caleb Grimes, an attorney for Taylor Morrison, said the developer is likely to have a mix of single-family homes, paired villas and eight-unit condominium buildings.

Road impact fees collected from that new construction can go toward capacity and intersection improvements on Honore Avenue, Grimes noted.

John Swart, a resident of nearby Mote Ranch, said heavy rains cause Rattlesnake Slough to flood existing developments in the area.

“That slough can’t handle the water that goes into it now,” said Bob Webb, a resident of Palm-Aire. He said the creek is “overrun by vegetation” and becomes “a constant nightmare.”

Thomas Gerstenberger, stormwater engineering division manager for the county, said runoff from the development will drain into on-site retention ponds and then Ward Lake, the city’s reservoir on the Braden River — and not into Rattlesnake Slough or a ditch in the nearby Silver Lake neighborhood that residents say also causes flooding.

The city initially intended to create an above-ground reservoir for additional water storage on the site it intends to sell. But it eventually determined it would be more cost effective to invest in an underground aquifer storage and retrieval system for its water treatment plant.

Treasure Island, St. Petersburg, agree on causeway plan

TREASURE ISLAND — The City Commission is expected to approve an agreement with the city of St. Petersburg on Tuesday to reconstruct the East Causeway roadway, including a new bike trail, beginning next year.

Informal approval of the agreement was given during a workshop session last week.

The causeway is owned by Treasure Island but is within St. Petersburg city limits. It extends from Sunset Drive in St. Petersburg to the base of the bascule bridge connecting Treasure Island to the mainland.

The nearly $2 million project will be managed and built by St. Petersburg, which has already approved the agreement, according to city officials.

Construction is scheduled to begin in August 2019 and be finished by May 2020. Design plans for the project are more than half completed.

The project does not address whether Treasure Island will reinstitute a toll for vehicles crossing the bridge, nor does it address how the city’s ongoing costs for maintaining that bridge will be financed.

Previously, city officials indicated that without a toll, the city would have to raise property taxes to cover millions of dollars in future maintenance costs.

St. Petersburg College to screen “A Plastic Ocean” documentary

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The grave threat posed by plastic waste to the world’s oceans – and the marine life within them – is the focus of a documentary film that will be screened by St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. The film, “A Plastic Ocean,” and a follow-up discussion of the implications of toxic seas will be presented from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 26 at the SPC Seminole Campus, 9200 113th Street N.

The event is co-sponsored by the University of Florida IFAS Extension Service. Admission is free, but advance registration is requested at http://solutions.spcollege.edu. Following the screening, there will be a discussion of the plastic waste issue led by Lara Milligan, Natural Resources Special Agent for the Pinellas County Extension Service. The program also will include a display of microplastic waste collected by SPC students in the Natural Science Department at the college’s Bay Pines STEM Center on the shore of “Hurricane Hole” on Boca Ciega Bay.

The documentary is the product of a four-year odyssey to explore the issue of plastics in our oceans and to assess its effects on marine ecosystems and human health. It was created by two respected documentary film-makers, Jo Ruxton as producer and Craig Leeson as director, with the assistance of scientists Dr. Bonnie Monteleone and marine biologist Dr. Lindsay Porter.

The film documents the massive scale of plastic waste in the oceans – and the toll it takes on marine life. Plastic waste fields pollute all five of the world’s primary ocean systems, but the biggest is what is commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located roughly 1,500 miles west of San Francisco. A study published March 22 by the journal Scientific Reports found the scale of that garbage patch to be four to 16 times larger than previously thought, an area roughly four times the size of California.

But contrary to popular belief, this garbage is not piled up to form a floating island of plastic. “A Plastic Ocean” documents the fact that it is breaking down into small particulates that enter the marine food chain, where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins, consumed by sea creatures, are stored in their fatty tissues and eventually are taken in by humans who consume the edible seafood. Because plastic is man-made, it does not disintegrate the way other materials like wood, paper or even metal objects eventually do. This means that every item of plastic that has ever been created is still with us on the planet today, say scientists. As Director Leeson put it in an interview, “…The environment has no way of dealing with it, so it is building up and poisoning our earth like a disease. . .”

FSU Research: Urban growth leads to shorter, more intense wet seasons in Florida peninsula

New research from Florida State University scientists has found that urban areas throughout the Florida peninsula are experiencing shorter, increasingly intense wet seasons relative to underdeveloped or rural areas.

The study, published in the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, provides new insight into the question of land development's effect on seasonal climate processes.

Using a system that indexed urban land cover on a scale of one to four -- one being least urban and four being most urban -- the researchers mapped the relationship between land development and length of wet season.

"What we found is a trend of decreasing wet-season length in Florida's urban areas compared to its rural areas," said Vasu Misra, associate professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science and lead investigator of the study.

According to Misra's research, changing land cover over the past 40 to 60 years has resulted in a decrease in wet-season length by 3.5 hours per year in Florida's most urban areas compared to its most rural areas.

However, the linear trends of seasonal rainfall accumulation over that same period were found to have remained relatively stable across Florida's diverse land cover regions.

Pinellas County Wastewater/Stormwater Task Force presents action plan update

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County, city and agency partners that make up the Wastewater/Stormwater Task Force met on Monday, April 9, at 10 a.m. in the Digitorium of the C.W. “Bill” Young University Partnership Center on the Seminole Campus of St. Petersburg College located at 9200 113th St. N., in Seminole.

The Task Force’s Technical Working Group—a body comprised of technical representatives from utility and stormwater agencies within Pinellas County—presented updates to the Task Force Steering Committee regarding the progress and outcomes of specific projects outlined in the 2017 action plan, including:

  • Inflow and infiltration studies
  • Addressing insufficient system capacity
  • Rehabilitation/replacement programs for aging infrastructure
  • Stormwater drainage improvements
  • Resource sharing/maximization initiatives
  • Developing a public dialogue program
  • Developing legislation, regulations and local ordinances
The Wastewater/Stormwater Task Force was formed in October 2016 as a joint initiative to address countywide wastewater and stormwater issues brought about by heavy rainfall events. The countywide team is comprised of leaders and staff from Pinellas County Government, 17 municipal partners and three private utility systems.

The Technical Working Group meets regularly to evaluate each utility system’s status in regards to rehabilitation and replacement projects that are underway and/or planned, collaborate on common approaches to remediate system-wide issues and discuss detailed future mitigation plans to avoid sanitary sewer overflows during extreme weather events.

Following the formal portion of the meeting, the presenters answered questions from members of the Steering Committee and the public.

To learn more, visit www.pinellascounty.org/taskforce.

Watch the video:

Gov. Scott vetoes 'toilet-to-tap' bill

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Gov. Rick Scott sided with environmentalists Friday by vetoing a so-called "toilet to tap" bill that would have allowed treated wastewater to be pumped back into the state's groundwater.

With that pen stroke, Scott avoided the epithet "Governor Poopy Water," something environmentalists had vowed to call him if he let the bill become law.

"Protecting Florida's environment has been a top priority during my time as governor," Scott said in the veto letter. "Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way."

Scott hasn't always been popular with environmental groups, and the decision will head off criticism as he prepares a run for U.S. Senate.

A group calling itself Citizens Against Contaminated Aquifer Water, or CACA Water for short, canceled a news conference scheduled for Monday in a last-minute effort to persuade Scott to veto the bill.

"I am surprised by this, for sure, and pleasantly surprised by this, of course," said event organizer Brian Lee, who chairs the Leon County Soil and Water Conservation District. "I hope that means he was listening to the people."

Several environmental groups urged people to call and email the governor's office in opposition to the bill. The Clean Water Network of Florida has used the slogan "Toilet to tap — let's flush it." That group and others used social media to promote the "Governor Poopy Water" nickname if Scott signed the legislation.

Proponents of the bill said that treated water injected into aquifers would have met federal drinking water standards and would have helped sustain water resources and supplies.

But opponents said federal water standards don't test for things such as pharmaceuticals, which could be spread through human waste.

Scott is expected to announce Monday that he'll challenge three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in this year's election.

2018 hurricane season expected to be an active one

While images of destruction caused by last year's battery of hurricanes are still fresh in the minds of many Americans, including those living on Puerto Rico where after six months power is not fully restored, forecasters are cautioning the public to brace themselves for another busy hurricane season.

Researchers at Colorado State University predict this will be a slightly above-average season, with 14 tropical storms in 2018. Seven are expected to become hurricanes, which have a wind speed of at least 74 mph. Three of those seven are expected to be major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, with winds reaching a minimum of 111 mph.

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs from June 1 through the end of November.

"Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted," researchers say.

By comparison, 2017 had a total of 17 named storms — with 10 becoming hurricanes and six of them major hurricanes — including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. But that number exceeded forecasters' expectations, including the team from CSU. The university had only anticipated 11 tropical storms with four becoming hurricanes.

Opinion: It’s time to reconsider cisterns

By Tom Palmer, published April 7th, 2018 in the Lakeland Ledger

The looming water supply problems in this part of Florida have revived some talk of an old idea: cisterns.

Cisterns have been used in various parts of the world for centuries.

In case you’re unfamiliar with cisterns, they are simply water-tight containers of various sizes that are used to collect and store rainwater for future use.

The concept was part of a discussion at the recent Polk County Water School that I attended to give local government officials and some other invited folks a chance to hear the latest about local water issues and solutions.

In the current terminology, cisterns could be viewed as another alternative water supply.

You may hear this term regularly if you’re following local water supply issues because the best research has determined that tapping the Floridan aquifer to supply all of our water needs is coming to an end.

That’s because continuing to pump increased quantities of water from the aquifer at the rate we have done in the past is unsustainable.

That’s where alternative water supplies come in.

This word about the approaching end of business-as-usual in the water supply world is coming out at the same time as a series of in-depth studies conducted in conjunction with a regional effort called the Central Florida Water Initiative. This initiative grew out of an earlier effort to forge a regional plan for supplying water and heading off the kind of water wars that raged in the Tampa Bay area in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you want to know the effect of unsustainable water pumping, the Tampa Bay area offers plenty of lessons.

I recently received a 2010 report to the Florida Legislature from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that contained a map depicting a 50-year boundary for salt-water intrusion in the Floridan aquifer that extends to the outskirts of Brandon. It leaves you to wonder how close to Polk County the 100-year boundary will be.

Florida Aquarium tries to jump-start coral growth in Apollo Beach test

APOLLO BEACH – Under the water, on tiny tiles at the Florida Aquarium's Conservation Center in Apollo Beach, babies are growing.

"Baby corals from this past year's coral spawn in the Keys," explained coral biologist Rachel Seraphin. "These individuals are all staghorn coral, which is our main reef building coral for the Florida reef track."

The Florida Aquarium is having big success in coral reproduction. The team collected spawn during a dive in the Florida Keys back in August.

"We bring those bundles back to the lab where we break them apart, separate the sperm and the egg, fertilize the eggs, make sure the fertilization process has happened," continued Seraphin. "The importance of the sexual reproduction of corals is being able to diversify our genetic pool of corals so that they can battle disease, weather events, temperature swings -- high or low, or any other factors."

More than 100 of these baby corals have survived and flourished under this care. It's hope for the effort to strengthen coral reefs.

"Especially, the Florida reef track. About 98 percent has declined since the 80's," said Seraphin.

Some of that is caused by man, including land-based pollution like runoff. There's also the decline of sharks.

New law Gov. Scott signed makes public access to beaches harder to establish

A bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law last month has sent shock waves through Florida’s waterfront communities and prompted questions from confused beach residents and businesses. Experts say the law’s effect on beach access is not quite as dire as some people fear.

The bill, HB 163, blocks local governments from adopting ordinances to allow continuedpublic entry to privately owned beaches even when property owners may want to block off their land. Instead, any city or county that wants to do that has to get a judge’s approval first — by suing the private landowners.

The new law "is very bad for local governments," said Alison Fluornoy, a University of Florida law professor. "Suing coastal landowners as the only avenue to establish access is not an attractive option." She also pointed out that requiring a lawsuit means the Legislature put an added burden on the courts without offering any additional funding.

The new law, which goes into effect July 1, has left some people afraid it will immediately cut off public access to beaches all over the state. That’s not the case.

"We’ve been getting lots of calls from people confused about the issue, because it is so confusing," said Robin A. Sollie, executive director of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.

Environmental groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Surfrider Foundation, as well as the Florida Association of Counties, strongly opposed the new law. But county association spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller said that, for now at least, only one Panhandle county is seeing an immediate impact.

While many of Florida’s prettiest beaches are part of the state park system, and thus guaranteed to be open to the public, the state estimates about 60 percent of Florida’s beach property is privately owned. Private ownership extends down to where the sand gets wet, also known as the mean high water line, which is public.

In many areas where beaches are privately owned, tourists and even local residents frequently wander over and set up their chairs, collect sea shells and build sand castles.

SWFWMD performing prescribed burns in Manatee and Hillsborough Counties to reduce fire risk

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 spring. That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns in April and May on the Edward W. Chance Reserve – Gilley Creek Tract (Gilley Creek) and Flatford Swamp Preserve in Manatee County, and the Lower Hillsborough Flood Detention Area (LHFDA) and the Chito Branch Reserve in Hillsborough County.

The Gilley Creek property is located between State Road 62 and State Road 64 and east of County Road 675, southeast of Parrish. The Flatford Swamp Preserve is located on Wauchula Myakka Road, south of State Road 64 and north of Myakka City. Approximately 574 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

The LHFDA is located south of Cross Creek Boulevard between U.S. Highway 301 and Morris Bridge Road near Thonotosassa. Chito Branch Reserve is located south of Boyette Road west of County Road 39 near Lithia. Approximately 635 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. To learn more about why igniting prescribed burns now prepares lands for the next wildfire season, view this video:

Polluters are dumping into Florida waterways

Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Florida’s waterways 270 times over 21 months, the tenth worst total in the nation, according to a new report by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center. However, the facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution. Environment Florida Research and Policy Center is releasing its Troubled Waters report as the federal government tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

“All Florida waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida. “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment, and they aren’t being held accountable.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Florida Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, both in Florida and across the country.

Florida waters continue to be hit with red tide. Millions added to combat blooms

Red tide blooms have hit Southwest Florida hard in recent weeks.

The toxic algae causes fish kills, respiratory issues and contributes to several dozen manatee deaths each year.

That’s why U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, says he sponsored legislation that will add $8 million to combat the blooms.

Buchanan’s measure was passed by Congress as part of a government funding bill.

“Data is king”: Analysis confirms projections of sea level rise models

No more computer models or projections. Finally – concrete data.

A scientific paper published in February may pave the way for a new conversation about rising sea levels using data instead of projections.

Gary Mitchum, co-author of the paper and Associate Dean at the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, says the research is more than just another explanation of the effects of global climate change.

“In science, data is king,” Mitchum said. “I’ve been telling people I think it’s a game-changer in that the discussion can now switch from is this just an error in the models, the computer models, or is it really in the data?’’

The paper immediately received international attention and went viral within the scientific community.

The team of researchers began compiling data in 1993. They released the statistics from satellite altimetry, the measurement of height or altitude from a satellite.

“We’re hoping that what this is going to do is allow people to stop worrying about the fact that it’s only the models seeing it, that we actually see it in the data now too and we can have a conversation about what we need to be doing,” Mitchum said.

Using data from 25 years of observation, researchers concluded that previous projections by computer models were accurate with 99 percent confidence. The global average sea level rose about 3 millimeters per year.

Now, the scientific community has recorded data that confirms these research methods.

Budget bill includes money for red tide

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s office touted the inclusion of $8 million in the latest federal budget bill to combat red tide outbreaks like the one that has lingered off the coast of Southwest Florida.

“Red tide poses a serious threat to our environment, marine life and economy,” Buchanan said, adding that legislation he promoted will allow for greater research with the goal of reducing the problem. “We need to understand more about the toxins in red tide so we can stop the damaging effects.”

Harmful algae blooms cause $82 million in economic losses to the seafood, restaurant and tourism industries each year in the United States, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Buchanan’s measure on harmful algal bloom funding was included in an appropriations bill that funds the federal government through September 2018, his office said in a news release. The funding bill, which averted another government shutdown, was signed by President Donald Trump Friday afternoon after he had earlier threatened to veto it.

Michael P. Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, said in the release that the funding will “significantly bolster the scientific community’s research to detect, respond to and develop innovative technologies to lessen the impacts from some of the country’s most challenging harmful algal blooms — red tide — on our environment, marine life and human health.”

Reclaimed water restrictions continue in all of Pinellas County

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Utilities is asking North County customers to voluntarily reduce demand to avoid system shutdowns

  • Seasonal reclaimed watering restrictions in place through June 30 during traditional dry season
  • North County system currently critically low
  • Customers encouraged to follow restrictions year-round
  • Customers have opportunity to take classes and learn more about Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ practices that save water and promote healthier lawns

Pinellas County reclaimed water seasonal restrictions are in place and are scheduled to continue through June 30. With excessive demand at an all-time high, restrictions continue to be necessary to help provide every reclaimed water customer with an adequate supply.

The mandatory restrictions are different for North County and South County reclaimed water customers due to the volume of reclaimed water produced by the respective water reclamation facility supplying each area and customer demand on each system.

For Pinellas County Utilities-supplied North County reclaimed water customers located north of Curlew Road, customers may irrigate with reclaimed water during authorized hours two days per week according to the following schedule:

  • Addresses ending in an even number (0, 2, 4, 6 or 8) may water on Tuesday and/or Saturday
  • Addresses ending in an odd number (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) may water on Wednesday and/or Sunday
  • Addresses with mixed or no addresses, such as common areas associated with a residential subdivision, may water on Wednesday and/or Sunday
  • Irrigation is prohibited between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on all days

The North County system will continue to be shut down on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. The system will also be shut down from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on all days of operation.

All North County reclaimed water customers are encouraged to significantly reduce their use of reclaimed water on a voluntary basis, beyond the mandatory restrictions, due to critical low levels and the possibility of a required system shutdown to protect infrastructure.

South County restrictions

South County reclaimed watering restrictions apply to Pinellas County Utilities-supplied reclaimed water customers located south of Ulmerton Road. The restrictions limit reclaimed water irrigation during authorized hours to three days per week based on house number according to the following schedule:

  • Addresses ending in an even number (0, 2, 4, 6 or 8) may water Tuesday, Thursday and/or Saturday
  • Addresses ending in an odd number (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) may water on Wednesday, Friday and/or Sunday
  • Addresses with mixed or no addresses, such as common areas associated with a residential subdivision may water on Wednesday, Friday and/or Sunday
  • Irrigation is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Irrigation is prohibited on Monday

Violations of the mandatory restrictions may result in a fine. Those who are not Pinellas County Utilities customers are encouraged to check with their water supplier to verify their watering days.

Customers are advised to monitor the Utilities website, as additional restrictions may be implemented if seasonal rainfall is lower than anticipated and the reclaimed water supply becomes limited.

Pinellas County Utilities customers are encouraged to follow these restrictions throughout the year to promote a healthy, sustainable Florida lawn and landscape. The dry season also offers customers the opportunity to learn about, and put into practice, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ practices, including watering only when grass and plants start to wilt and, when needed, watering deeply to encourage deep, drought-tolerant root systems.

Pinellas County Extension offers a multitude of information about creating Florida-appropriate landscapes that are attractive, healthier with less water and are less costly than replacing plants every year. Visit www.pinellascounty.org/extension to view lawn and garden resources and a listing of upcoming classes.

Utilities customers are also reminded that Pinellas County follows year-round conservation measures allowing irrigation using potable, well, lake or pond water two days per week on assigned days based on house address. To verify watering days, visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/water-restrict.htm.

For more information about reclaimed water, visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/reclaim-irrigation.htm, or call Pinellas County Utilities Customer Service at (727) 464-4000.

Salmon farming in Florida? It's a possibility.

What was once a sprawling tomato field near Homestead is being turned over in stages for a new crop: Atlantic salmon.

Yes, you read that right. Salmon, fresh from Florida, the land of palm trees and gators.

Turns out the cold-water, protein-rich fish are well-suited for an innovative approach to salmon farming in the tropics, and southern Florida offers the ideal geological structure for this endeavor in aquaculture: the world’s largest land-raised salmon farm.

“Up to now, what has been holding up salmon from growing and feeding the world is that it has been stuck at the ends of the Earth and has be to be flown around. We’re changing that,” said José Prado, chief financial officer of Atlantic Sapphire, the Norwegian company that is constructing a $130-million, 380,000-square-foot facility to hatch, grow and process salmon — all on land. “We call it world-class local.”