An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

FGCU researchers install air quality pump to test blue-green algae toxins

CAPE CORAL - Florida Gulf Coast University researchers are tired of waiting on other groups to test how blue-green algae affects our air quality.

They took matters into their own hands and created an air quality pump.

The air pump has different layers of filters, similar to your respiratory system.

“We are looking at microsysten. So that’s a toxin produced by mycrosystis which is the blue-green algae that’s been a big concern this summer here in the Cape,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, Professor of Marine Science Florida Gulf Coast University.

Parsons is also the director of the Coastal Watershed Institute, and he says the residents along the canals are asking if breathing the air near blue-green algae is healthy.

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category 4 storm to a Category 2 and then a Category 1, Wayne Mills figured he could stick it out.

He regrets it. The Neuse River, normally 150 feet away, lapped near his door in New Bern, North Carolina, on Sunday even as the storm had "weakened" further.

People like Mills can be lulled into thinking a hurricane is less dangerous when the rating of a storm is reduced. But those ratings are based on wind strength, not rainfall or storm surge—and water is responsible for 90 percent of storm deaths .

Several meteorologists and disaster experts said something needs to change with the 47-year-old Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to reflect the real risks in hurricanes. They point to Florence, last year's Hurricane Harvey, 2012's Sandy and 2008's Ike as storms where the official Saffir-Simpson category didn't quite convey the danger because of its emphasis on wind.

"The concept of saying 'downgraded' or 'weakened should be forever banished," said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd. "With Florence, I felt it was more dangerous after it was lowered to Category 2."

It was a lowered category that helped convince Famous Roberts, a corrections officer from Trenton, to stay behind. "Like a lot of people (we) didn't think it was actually going to be as bad," he said. "With the category drop ... that's another factor why we did stay."

SBA Outreach Center open for businesses affected by red tide

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Manatee County Government and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced today that a SBA Disaster Loan Outreach Center will to assist businesses that have been affected by red tide. The center will open at the Manatee County Island Branch Library this Friday.

SBA representatives will be on hand to provide information about disaster loans, answer questions and assist businesses in completing the SBA application. The County’s Economic Development team and local economic development and Chamber of Commerce partners will also be on hand to provide information and resources to assist and to help businesses document financial losses at Floridadisaster.biz.

"Reporting injury to business, no matter how small, assists the State of Florida in requesting disaster declarations from the Federal Government," said Karen Stewart, Manatee County Economic Development Official. "This information helps government officials determine the impact to the community and helps in determining types of federal assistance that may be offered in the future."

The temporary SBA Center at the Island Branch Library will operate until further notice. No appointments are necessary. The library is located at 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

On its first day of operation, the center will open at 11 a.m. but other weekday hours in the future will be Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The center will also be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To receive additional disaster assistance information, visit SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disaster. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

For additional information pertaining to the SBA Disaster Loan Outreach Center or the Florida SBDC Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, call (941) 749-3029. For more information on Manatee County Government, visit www.mymanatee.org or call (941) 748-4501. You can also follow Manatee County on Facebook at www.facebook.com/manatee.county.fl and on Twitter, @ManateeGov.

Scientists want to try possible solution to help combat algae on larger scale

FORT MYERS - One other solution could be this: a giant sponge mat: It’s part of the Aquaflex Project.

WINK News first told you about crews testing out the project along the Caloosahatchee about a week-and-a-half ago. Scientists say it worked, and now want to try it out on a bigger scale.

“This demo did illustrate that it does effectively absorb those toxins,” Jennifer Hecker, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.

New test results show Aquaflex worked. It sucked up the toxins from the blue-green algae. Anywhere from 45,000 to 259,000 parts per billion.

A marine scientist from Florida Gulf Coast University working on the project says that’s a high concentration.

“And we can calculate how much was actually removed because right now all we know is that it absorbs the toxins,” Dr. Mike Parsons said in a phone interview. “So we know we can do it but we don’t know well how much can it absorb.”

Red tide renews its nasty grip on Anna Maria Island beaches

MANATEE - Signs of the persistent red tide bloom reappeared on Anna Maria Island this weekend after seeming to recede.

The red tide organism, Karenia brevis, has besieged local beaches for more than a month with its odor, fish carcasses and dark water. The algae bloom has also been thought by scientists to be what has killed turtles, dolphins, sharks and manatees in Florida’s waters.

Since early August, Manatee County crews have removed 289 tons of fish, according to Nick Azzara, information outreach manager for Manatee County.

This weekend, dead fish again washed up on Anna Maria Island shores.

Bradenton wants more development along the water. New rules may limit growth

BRADENTON - As Hurricane Florence ravages the Carolinas, Bradenton officials appear more worried about a relatively new law they say could limit future development along the Manatee River and other waterways.

Bradenton officials have made no secret about their long-term development goals along the Manatee River. The hope is to one day change the skyline with high-density development.

The city wants more residents in downtown and along the riverfront to attract more businesses., whether they in live high rises along the water or in apartment/townhouse complexes.

However, the Flood Peril Act adopted by state lawmakers in 2015 could make that more difficult.

Volunteer boaters needed for 25th annual fishing line cleanup

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Abandoned and discarded fishing line ensnares local birds and marine mammals

Tampa Bay Watch, in partnership with Audubon Florida, is mainly recruiting volunteers with shallow-draft boats, and has limited space for kayaks/canoes/SUPs to independently remove tangled fishing line from mangroves and shorelines of Tampa Bay’s colonial bird nesting islands. Boaters are encouraged to independently clean their assigned island anytime throughout the week of Saturday, October 6–Sunday, October 14.

Last year’s cleanup resulted in an estimated 18,860 feet of fishing line being removed from 25 different coastal nesting sites around Tampa Bay. Thank you to Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund for sponsoring this important event.

Visit the link below to register your boat:

Red tide will be a problem again someday. Manatee County wants a ‘playbook’ for next time

BRADENTON - As Florida’s Gulf Coast continues to scramble for the solutions and causes of the latest red tide bloom, Manatee County hopes to lead the way with a data-driven “playbook.”

At Tuesday’s county commission meeting, researchers from the University of Central Florida announced their plan to apply for a grant that would allow them to work on a project in Manatee County that analyzes actions that mitigate red tide and actions to take once red tide reappears.

Commissioners unanimously supported a motion to move forward with the grant application.

“Red tide is going to be returning, so it would be nice to put what we learned in a playbook and go forward,” said Charlie Hunsicker, director of parks and natural resources.

New treatment being developed for manatees poisoned by red tide

SARASOTA - Florida International University and Mote Marine Laboratory are developing new and more efficient ways to treat manatees exposed to toxic red tide.

Through a $428,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ECOHAB program, FIU and Mote are launching a three-year project to improve veterinary care for rescued manatees by studying how the cells in their immune system respond to certain antioxidants. The goal is to identify those antioxidants that may work better than the current treatment, which uses anti-inflammatory substances.

FIU chemist Kathleen Rein and Mote marine immunology expert Cathy Walsh are leading the research team.

“The current approach is simply to give palliative care and wait for them to clear the toxin and get better,” Rein said. “This new treatment could accelerate the healing process. If this treatment is successful, it could be used with many other animals including dolphins, turtles and birds.”

30,000 tons of sand being used for beach renourishment in Longboat

Longboat starts north end beach renourishment

Large trucks hauling earth-moving equipment and 30,000 tons of sand will begin appearing on Longboat Key streets this week as part of the town’s monthlong North End Interim Renourishment project.

The $1.1 million project, which will improve a 600-foot stretch of beach around North Shore Road, became necessary because of beach erosion caused by Hurricane Irma last fall. A July survey by Olsen Associates, a Jacksonville coastal engineering company, found Longboat lost 61,700 cubic yards of sand on four of eight gulf-facing portions of its beach from that storm.

High tides have eroded the beach to the point that the enscarpment – a steep embankment left in the sand dune by beach erosion – has eroded to the base of the southernmost groin.

The lost sand accounts for about 9% of the total put on Longboat two years ago. The town has been nourishing its beaches since 1993, when the town had more than 3.3 million cubic yards of sand placed along the island’s 9.3-mile shoreline.

During the ongoing project, public access to the beach from North Shore Road to Joy Street will be closed.

We learn about an experimental approach to remove blue-green algae from the water

FORT MYERS - We’re learning more about a method that's being tested to remove blue-green algae from the Caloosahatchee River and area canals. Much of it arrived via releases from the algae-covered Lake Okeechobee -- a move the US Army Corps of Engineers made to keep the water level in the lake at a safe level for the aging Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds it.

This blue-green algae is the stuff that has canals looking like technicolor guacamole -- and it’s the cyanobacteria that can cause rashes on contact and serious illness if ingested by humans, not to mention the potential fatal effects on marine life, wild animals, pets and livestock.

Caloosahatchee cyanobacteria demo results announced

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA - The problems with excess nutrients discharged into water and resulting toxic algae blooms continue to plague Southwest Florida.

In an effort to evaluate potential remediation solutions, the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, AquaFlex Holdings, Sea and Shoreline, and the Calusa Waterkeeper initiated deployment of various configurations of AquaFlex Open-Cell in the Caloosahatchee on Aug. 16 and 17.

The goal of the demonstration was to determine the potential efficacy for simultaneous removal/detection of the algae and accompanying toxins. The technology, first used in 2010 by BP during the DeepWater Horizon oil spill disaster, has been shown to be effective in removing excess phosphorus and oil-related contaminants in other regions.

Now you can take your boater safety exam online

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FWC now allows online providers to offer boating safety exam

Access to Florida’s Boater Education Temporary Certificate Program has been expanded, thanks to work done by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to make allowances for online course providers to offer the required courses over the internet.

In August of 2017, the FWC amended Florida Administrative Code 68D-36.108 to allow the temporary certificate exam to be offered in an online version. This change makes it easier and more convenient for both vessel operators and vessel liveries to comply with Florida’s boater education laws, which require liveries to verify that customers born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, have met Florida’s boating safety education requirements before allowing them to rent their vessels.

Online temporary certificate exam providers will create a system that allows 24-hour, seven-day a week accessibility to the exam using tablets, laptops, or other electronic devices. This added convenience will make it easier for both visitors and residents by allowing them to take the test before a vacation to Florida.

Currently, one online boating safety education provider, Boat Ed, has completed the process to offer the exam online. Boat Ed has been a leader and innovator in boating safety education since 1995. Study or learning materials are available on the Boat Ed site to prepare students for the exam, improve their boating knowledge and increase their chances of successfully completing the exam on the first try. The exam costs $3 and study materials are available for an additional charge. A link to the exam can be found at Boat‑Ed.com/FloridaRental/.

Prior to this change, paper exams were the only option and were required to be completed and passed by rental vessel operators. The ability for liveries to continue to offer paper exams has not changed with the addition of this online option. Liveries can still purchase and administer the paper exams, as long as their contract and insurance are valid.

The temporary certificate exam is a knowledge check, not a full education course. It cannot be converted into a boater safety identification card that is valid for life. Temporary certificates are not valid in any other state and do not meet boater safety education requirements in other states.

The online exam will be 25 questions, randomly selected from a large pool of questions. The cost for the exam will remain $3. Upon successful completion of the exam, students will be provided an electronic proof of their successful completion and their passing score. A livery will be able to inspect this proof to ensure that a prospective vessel renter has met Florida’s boating safety education requirements.

The new change offers various benefits to liveries:

  • Liveries are not required to contract with any other company to use the online exam.
  • A link that will send customers directly to the online exam can be provided by liveries.
  • Liveries are not required to continue purchasing paper exams from the FWC.
  • The burden of mailing paper tests back to the FWC is removed with the online option.
  • Liveries will be able to provide speedier service to customers who take the exam in advance of renting.

The FWC encourages liveries to transition to the new online exam system to increase accessibility and streamline the testing process for renters interested in enjoying Florida’s beautiful waterways by boat.

New SCCF lab promises improved water monitoring

FORT MYERS - Twice the space and about $350,000 worth of new, high-tech water testing equipment make the new Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation marine laboratory a more effective hedge against harmful algal blooms and other water issues plaguing Southwest Florida, SCCF scientists say.

The new lab recently opened at the Tarpon Bay Recreation Area of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. Since 1996, SCCF has occupied a small building on the federal land. The structure had previously served as a retail space before the government acquired the private marina property at Tarpon Bay in the late 1980s.

“There have been scientists here since ’96, but not full-time staff,” said marine laboratory director Dr. Eric Milbrandt. “It was used by visiting scientists.”

In more recent years, as SCCF strengthened its mission to focus more and more on water monitoring, its five scientific researchers, plus interns and visiting scientists used the building as offices and laboratories.

View under water shows red tide devastation in Sarasota Bay

SARASOTA BAY - A new underwater video reveals a new perspective on the red tide crisis.

Underwater videographer Curt Bowen shot a video in Sarasota Bay on Sunday. After weeks of taking a pounding from red tide, the bay is a barren, bleak environment, devoid of life.

“Well, I actually didn't see anything, which is what the problem was,” said Bowen.

Bowen has been shooting the bay waters for more than three decades. He's seen plenty of red tide blooms before, but nothing like this.

"The bay should have been teeming with a little more life,” he said.

“Normally, when you get down to the bottom of the bay you’re surrounded by lots of little bait fish. There’s a lot of little stuff going on in the bottom. But basically there was nothing to be found.”

Manatee County announces next phase of red tide cleanup

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MANATEE COUNTY – Today Manatee County announced a new program to maintain local canals and waterways impacted by the August red tide outbreak. The Nets to Neighbors campaign will provide local homeowner associations and neighborhoods with nets and buckets for local cleanup efforts.

Manatee County will continue its daily cleanup of public beaches and parks on Anna Maria Island. The County now will move to a maintenance effort, said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker during a news conference today at 1 p.m.

"We’re transitioning to a program where we will provide nets and buckets to the neighborhood sites that have dumpsters," Hunzeker said. "You and your neighbors can assist by picking up residual fish. We have no idea how long (red tide) will continue but we’re committed to helping with volunteers and equipment."

Today, nets and buckets were taken to Coral Shores, Wild Oak Bay and Trailer Estates -- neighborhoods that have been impacted most directly from the red tide bloom. By Wednesday of this week, many more nets will be available to borrow at G.T. Bray Recreation Center.