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Water-Related News

Manatee County’s new skimmer boats will help clean up red tide fish kills

Only background levels of the red tide organism Karenia brevis have been detected in the Gulf of Mexico, which is normal. But when a bloom arrives again, Manatee is now better prepared.

It was announced at the Manatee County Tourist Development Council meeting last week, Thursday, that the county has purchased special boats to remove fish killed by red tide from the water.

During the 2018 red tide algae bloom that lasted more than a year, Manatee officials removed 450,000 pounds of dead fish from the shore.

They worked about 64 days straight, using a large mechanical rake pulled by a tractor to collect the rotting fish along 2.7 miles of beach. The fish were poured into roll-away garbage containers and sent to the landfill.

“It was just a tireless effort,” said Carmine DeMilio, Manatee’s Parks Operations Manager. “We didn't have many happy campers in 2018. It wasn't so much that we weren't prepared, it was just the abundance of red tide. It was much different.”

Beaches had to close, affecting local businesses and tourism, overall.

Then in 2020, during another occurrence of red tide, DeMilio said there were no closures because the bloom wasn’t as bad and he said his team was better prepared.

“Our deployment of not only equipment, but staff were in place, so we reacted a lot quicker,” he said. “It's all about tourism and these businesses that are out on the island… When you have to close down a beach and businesses, and people don't come to visit… it's terrible.”

Florida Sea Grant, GCOOS and FWRI collaborate on new red tide messaging poster

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Keeping the public safe during red tide events is at the heart of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) Harmful Algal Bloom activities. When it comes to knowing when and where red tides are taking place, communication to residents, tourists, and businesses is key.

Recently, Florida Sea Grant and GCOOS, with funding from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), collaborated on the development of a model to provide Florida’s agencies with a statewide strategic infrastructure to communicate information about red tide.

The model was developed with input from 1,100 Florida residents and natural resources, public health, tourism, media, small business, and hospitality professionals. In addition to a robust collection of these data delivered in nine public reports, the team — Florida Sea Grant’s Dr. Lisa Krimsky and Betty Staugler, and GCOOS Outreach and Education Manager Dr. Chris Simoniello — worked with artist Sara Franklin to create a poster addressing some of the most frequently asked questions and misconceptions that came to light during the study.

Among the priorities identified by participants were the need for consistent messages, guidance on recommended actions to stay safe, and where to go for more information.

“Our goal for the poster was to provide a visually appealing source of science-based information covering priority content that came to light during the study,” said Simoniello. “We want to help people better understand what Florida red tide is, how best to protect themselves and their families, and where to go to find credible information, including alternate activities to help protect the local economy if the beach is not an option.”

In addition to featuring sea life in watercolor details, the poster includes links to resources such as the Red Tide Respiratory Forecast, and the Visit Florida, Florida Department of Health and FWRI’s red tide web pages.

You can also download a high resolution version of the poster to print and use free of charge!

Download the Poster (24x36-inch jpg)

A new study looks at parks and natural areas to absorb impact of storm surge and flooding

The study focuses on three areas, but its lessons can be used for other flood-prone areas.

It's a concept called resiliency — helping people and communities prepare for expected sea level rise and more intense flooding. But instead of relying on pouring more concrete for sea walls, they're using existing green space.

"One of the things that we're focused on in this project is what's called green infrastructure," said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, which is coordinating the study.

"And what that really means is we use natural features to help mitigate the impact of extreme weather. So we're talking about using natural features, whether it's sand dunes, or its planting mangroves — helping the mangroves to do their thing and mitigate wave attenuation — there are a number of things that require us to think outside the box and the cities are very interested in that concept."

One of the study areas is R.E. Olds Park in Oldsmar. During sunny days, it's a place for people to recreate along Tampa Bay. But when storm surge or flooding threatens, the park becomes a storage area for water, keeping it away from the city and nearby homes.

Other areas being studied include a closed basin in north Tampa that contains several springs and Pass-a-Grille in St. Pete Beach.

"So the resiliency needs are really different among the three," Sullivan said. "But what we hope to do is that the lessons learned in each of these communities that are similar but have their own characteristics can then be replicated from a resiliency standpoint, really throughout the region and throughout the state."

The six-month study was funded by state lawmakers as part of the Resilient Coastlines Initiative created by Gov. Ron DeSantis through the new Resilient Florida Program.

A symposium held Thursday at the River Center in downtown Tampa highlighted findings from three design charrettes that convened teams of planners, urban designers, landscape architects, engineers, and hydrologists, along with elected officials, municipal staff, residents and local stakeholders.

The Regional Planning Council is partnering with Urban Land Institute Tampa Bay, which focuses on responsible land use, growth and development.

New law directs DEP to set up PFAS cleanup rules, as feds issue advisory

Scientists have detected the substance in nearly everyone tested, and the effects aren’t yet fully understood.

Florida is beginning to tackle the cleanup of a family of once-everyday chemical substances about which federal regulators sounded the alarm last week.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed legislation (HB 1475) that asks the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to immediately begin to adopt statewide rules to clean up perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The compounds with a mouthful of a name, commonly shortened to PFAS, were once used in products ranging from firefighting foams to nonstick frying pans. Now, environmental and health studies say they’re far more dangerous than thought as recently as 2016.

Florida’s legislation, filed by Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure, requires DEP to adopt statewide cleanup levels for PFAS in drinking water, groundwater and soil by 2025. Those rules would have to go through the Legislature for ratification.

Although the United States no longer produces PFAS, they were common in the aerospace, medical and construction industries and more dating back to the 1950s. They were also a common substance in firefighting foam. Today, they can be imported in goods such as carpet, paper and packaging, and plastics.

Manatee County invites residents to apply to join ELMAC committee

Manatee County logo

MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County residents interested in helping protect land and water resources, preserve fish and wildlife habitats and provide for passive recreation are invited to apply for one of two positions now available on the Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Committee (ELMAC):

A member of an Environmental Group (3-year initial term)

A member engaged in Banking, Finance or Real Estate (3-year initial term)

Members are appointed by the Board for initial terms of service of one, two or three years. All terms after the initial term are for 3 years, with reappointment at the discretion of the Board.

ELMAC makes recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on environmental land acquisition and management issues, including recreational planning, and establishes programs for public lands. ELMAC also serves as the Tree Advisory Board.

ELMAC is responsible for implementing the community-initiated Conservation and Parks Projects Referendum. The Referendum, approved by voters in November of 2020, authorizes up to $50M in tax proceeds for the acquisition, improvement and management of land to protect natural resources and provide parks.?

ELMAC meets on the first Monday of every other month, excluding holidays, at 6:00 p.m., in the Manatee County Administration Building, 5th Floor, Manatee Room, 1112 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton FL, 34205.

More information

  • For more details or assistance with an application, call ELMAC Liaison Debra Woithe at (941) 742-5923 x6052 or email.
  • Applications are due July 11, 2022.

Are humans making toxic algae blooms worse and more frequent? A new study aims to finds out

Researchers will look to sediments for information on past blooms and what they can tell us about today's events.

A new study launching next week aims to answer some frequently asked questions about toxic algae blooms in Florida’s coastal waters: Are they getting worse? And are people the reason why?

Scientists with Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will assist their partners from Utrecht University in the Netherlands on the project looking into the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, and other micro-algae.

Red tide blooms can be fatal to manatees, fish and other marine life. Coastal tourism and fishing industries can also come to a crashing halt during events of medium-to-high levels of Karenia brevis being present due to the stench of dead fish washing ashore and the coughing people can experience.

Francesca Sangiorgi, an associate professor in Utrecht's Department of Geosciences, said they will use a pipe to collect sediment samples from the Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor seafloors to document past blooms.

"Layer by layer by layer, they accumulate year after year. And we can, basically by looking and studying the sediment, (read) the history of these harmful algal bloom like we would read a history book," she said.

EPA grants permit for Ocean Era aquaculture demonstration project off of Sarasota County

The EPA approved the permit for the Ocean Era aquaculture demonstration project in federal waters off of Sarasota County on June 8 – the same day another federal agency opened its public comment period on nine potential aquaculture sites in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Environmental Protection Agency had withheld final approval for the Ocean Era project pending clarification of whether discharges of waste generated by the fish would degrade the water.

The project, which would see about 20,000 Almaco jack fish raised in a net pen 45 miles offshore from Sarasota County between Venice and Englewood, requires an EPA permit because the water that flows through the net pen is considered to be “define e,” and so the nutrient levels will need to be monitored.

Governor signs bill putting all soil and water board seats on the ballot days before qualifying

The new law creates last-minute pressure on all board members, even those in the middle of their terms, to qualify.

Florida now has stricter membership qualifications to serve on the boards of the state’s Soil and Water Conservation districts, and only days to qualify thanks to a measure Gov. Ron DeSantis signed this week.

The law (SB 1078) requires candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District boards, a volunteer public office, to either be agriculture producers working or retired after at least 15 years of work or be employed by an agriculture producer. The legislation underwent several iterations during this year’s Regular Session as St. Augustine Republican Sen. Travis Hutson continuously tweaked the bill after receiving significant pushback from interested parties.

The measure took effect immediately when the Republican Governor signed it late Wednesday night as part of a trio of bill signings. Friday marks Florida’s qualifying deadline for the 2022 election, creating last-minute pressure on all board members, even those in the middle of their terms, to qualify.

Hutson’s original draft would have abolished the districts altogether. He said he heard pushback in his district that they were ineffective. But after hearing support for the districts, he amended the measure to limit membership so there would be more involvement from the agricultural community.

The law also explicitly states all board member seats shall be up for election this year before returning to staggered four-year terms.

Hillsborough County map now places many residents in new evacuation zones

2022 Evacuation Zone Map has about 75,000 residents in an evacuation zone for the first time

Many Hillsborough County residents, including those who live in a large area in East Tampa, are included in a storm evacuation zone for the first time this year.

Using 2020 U.S. Census data and the latest Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model from the National Hurricane Center, Hillsborough County has updated its evacuation zones for the 2022 hurricane season, which began June 1. There are almost 75,000 residents who will be in an evacuation zone for the first time based on the updated data.

Hillsborough residents can learn which evacuation zone their home is in by visiting HCFLGov.net/HEAT

East Tampa had biggest changes

The biggest map change is in East Tampa. The area roughly bordered by the Hillsborough River to the north, Harney Road to the east, I-4 to the south, and I-275 to the west. Previously not in an evacuation zone, this area has been moved into Zone E.

For the first time, 55,000 residents who were formerly in an evacuation zone find their neighborhood now outside of an evacuation zone.

Based on the 2020 Census data, the updated evacuation zones see:

  • Residents with no change: 1,289,604 (88.3 percent of Hillsborough's population)
  • Residents moved to a higher zone (for example from A to B): 107,334 (7.4 percent)
  • Residents moved to a lower zone (for example from B to A): 62,824 (4.3 percent)

All residents living in mobile homes are included in Evacuation Zone A regardless of the location of their home. Storm evacuations get residents out of the storm surge path, but mobile homes are not designed to withstand the wind from storms. Therefore, those residents are asked to evacuate with Zone A.

Prepare for storms

Residents are urged to begin preparations for storm season now. Review evacuation zones and prepare a disaster kit for an evacuation or for a prolonged power outage. Check on elderly neighbors and family members to make sure they also have a plan.

Go to?HCFLGov.net/StaySafe?for more information on how to prepare for storm season.

Sign up for alerts

When checking on the updated evacuation zones, residents are also encouraged to sign up for HCFL Alert, Hillsborough County's official notification system, at?HCFLGov.net/HCFLAlert.

Residents are reminded that Evacuation Zones and Flood Zones are?two different maps?that measure different conditions. It is important to know the difference before storm season arrives.

Link:?Map of 2022 evacuation zones compared to 2021

NOAA proposes sites for fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico

The EPA is revising the language for a fish farm permit near Venice, but there are other sites that could potentially turn into new fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico.

SARASOTA, Fla. — You have an opportunity to give feedback, encouraged by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on whether companies can set up aquaculture projects along our coastline.

Last summer, the Hawaii-based company Ocean Era applied to set up a farm off of the coast near Venice. The company used spheres to raise fish in the open ocean which they claim leads to higher quality and more sustainable seafood.

However, some worry that fish farms will fuel red tide blooms.

“The fish farms will add nutrients to our water, so that could potentially impact the health of our waters,” Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch said.

Ahearn-Koch said she's concerned because the city is still restoring the bay from the 2018 red tide that had a $300 million impact on the economy.

“Harmful algal blooms are definitely a concern, that we're well aware of living along the central Gulf Coast, here in Florida," NOAA Fisheries spokesperson Andrew Richard said. "The programmatic impact statement will assess the potential impacts both adverse and beneficial aquaculture might have on water quality.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is revising the language for a permit for the project near Venice.

In the meantime, you can have a say about farms for fish, seaweed, algae or even shellfish from June 1 to August 1.

To learn more about attending a public meeting, either virtually or in person, visit this page on NOAA's website. It also has a meeting presentation with background information.

County program can help residents in unincorporated Hillsborough with stormwater fee

Hills. County logo

Residents who qualify must be at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level

Residents who own property within unincorporated Hillsborough County are potentially eligible for a Management Program Hardship Exemption, which helps homeowners pay their stormwater fee. Among the required criteria, the total income of all residents of the household and owners of the property must be at or below 100 percent of the 2022 Federal Poverty Level. This level is determined each year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The 2022 Federal Poverty Levels are:

  • 1 Person $13,590           2 Persons $18,310
  • 3 Persons $23,030         4 Persons $27,750
  • 5 Persons $32,470         6 Persons $37,190
  • 7 Persons $41,910         8 Persons $46,630

Eligible homeowners must apply for the program, submit all required supporting documentation, and meet all criteria listed below:

The property must be a single-family residence that is owner-occupied and has a homestead exemption.

The property must have a taxable value of less than $100,000 after exemptions.

The deadline to apply is July 31, 2022.

Learn more about the program, additional eligibility requirements, and complete the application »

Lifeguards needed for Pinellas County beaches

Pinellas County logo

Pinellas County is hiring seasonal lifeguards to ensure the public health and safety of the community at Pinellas County beach parks. Lifeguards will be stationed on county beaches at Fort De Soto, Sand Key and Fred Howard parks through September. Individuals who enjoy helping the public in a fast-paced, detail-oriented role are encouraged to apply.

Positions are available for full-time or part-time seasonal employment, with a pay range of $16.75 to $18.09 per hour for new lifeguards and $17.75 to $19.17 per hour for senior lifeguards. Certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) can receive an additional 5%. Lifeguards may work 10-hour shifts. To apply, visit www.pinellas.gov/careers.

Requirements for the position include:

  • American Red Cross lifeguarding certification, or an equivalent combination of education, training and/or experience
  • Current CPR/AED and first aid certification
  • Must complete 500-meter swim under 10 minutes and one-mile run under eight minutes
  • Must be able to complete the 40-hours of training provided by Pinellas County Beach Patrol program
  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Ability to work at county beach parks as schedule and staffing demands change
  • Ability to work a variety of schedules including weekends and holidays, and compulsory work periods in special, emergency and/or disaster situations
  • Must possess a valid U.S. driver’s license

Highly-desirable qualifications:

  • Current first responder, EMT or paramedic certification
  • At least three months of responsible lifeguarding experience

A list of current job openings is available at www.pinellas.gov/careers. Certain service members and veterans, and the spouses and family members of the service members and veterans, receive preference and priority in employment by the state and are encouraged to apply for the positions being filled.

State funds to purchase Rattlesnake Key escape budget axe

The state will pay $23M to preserve the island.

One of the largest coastal land acquisitions made it into the $109.9 billion budget signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The state will contribute $23 million for the purchase of Rattlesnake Key.

“I am so pleased that the budget signed by Gov. DeSantis includes important priorities for the Manatee-Sarasota area, including funds to acquire Rattlesnake Key,” said Rep. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican. “We will now be able to permanently protect one of the most environmentally sensitive areas located in pristine Terra Ceia Bay.”

The island, south of the Sunshine Skyway in the Tampa Bay region, will become a state park accessible only by boat.

That $23 million expenditure represents one of the biggest local spending items in the state to make the final cut. Sen. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, had made budgeting money for the ecological treasure a chief priority this Legislative Session.

“Overall our community did very well in the budget,” he said. “I’m extremely excited about the preservation of Rattlesnake Key for future generations to enjoy.”

Symposium will showcase the Resilient Ready Tampa Bay Project

Join the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the Urban Land Institute on June 23, 1:30-5:30 PM at the Tampa River Center for the Resilient Ready Symposium. This symposium will showcase innovative design concepts, strategies, and resources developed through the Resilient Ready Tampa Bay project in collaboration with staff at the city of Tampa, St. Pete Beach, and Oldsmar.

Resilient Ready Tampa Bay is a regional technical assistance project that enhances the capacity of Tampa Bay communities to assess, plan for, and adapt to flood impacts through the expanded use of multi-functional green infrastructure systems and resilient site designs. The Resilient Ready team, composed of public and private experts in resiliency, landscape design, engineering, and planning and local stakeholders, facilitated design charrettes in flood-prone study areas with the cities of Tampa, St. Pete Beach, and Oldsmar. These three case studies exemplify the flood challenges and adaptation needs faced by local governments throughout the Tampa Bay Region, and provide innovative design concepts, strategies, and resources to address them. The Resilient Ready Tampa Bay project is coordinated by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and made possible by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Resilient Florida Coastlines Program.

Register on Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com/e/resilient-ready-symposium

Learn more about the Resilient Ready project: www.tbrpc.org/resilient-ready/

Date: Thursday, June 23, 2022
Time: 1:00 PM – 5:30 PM (reception to 6:30 PM)
Location: Tampa River Center, 402 W. Laurel St. Tampa, FL United States