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Water-Related News

Broken sewer line repaired; County unsure how much sewage spilled

BRADENTON – The cause of a stinky situation this week in Bradenton has been repaired, though it’s unclear how exactly how much wastewater overflowed or if any nearby bodies of water were affected.

The overflow caused by the force main break at Cortez Road and 66th Street West was contained by 7 a.m. Thursday. An hour later, the repairs to the main break were completed, Amy Pilson, Manatee County Utilities Public Affairs Liaison, said in an email to update Manatee County commissioners.

The force main break occurred around 10 p.m. Monday as crews were attempting to replace the cast iron pipe installed more than 40 years ago that services the west side of Bradenton from Cortez to Anna Maria Island.

Cortez force main break still discharging wastewater

MANATEE – More than one million gallons of wastewater is said to have spilled after a force main was damaged late Monday. As of Wednesday evening, the break was not fixed.

“We’re still in the process of getting the flow to stop,” Manatee County Utilities spokeswoman Amy Pilson said.

In the midst of replacing a force main on Cortez Road West and 66th Street West, a contractor struck the 41-year-old cast iron pipe around 10 p.m. Monday. The main services the west side of Bradenton, from Cortez to Anna Maria Island.

Pump trucks were dispatched to the area to divert the wastewater flow to a lift station on 44th Avenue West, but some of the runoff is expected to flow into Palma Sola Bay. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which notifies the public of pollution releases, at least 1.5 million gallons are estimated to have been released, and Pilson expects there to be more.

Moody’s: Unaddressed climate change will hurt Florida bond ratings

Waiting to address climate change could cost taxpayers in coastal cities — particularly in highly vulnerable Florida — in a way that not even the most progressive resiliency planners have considered.

Leaving the growing risk of rising seas unaddressed is going to hurt municipal and government credit scores, says the bond rating agency Moody’s in a new report. That means that cities or states now ignoring the issue could face higher interest rates when they borrow money down the road. And, according to long-term climate projections, they will need to borrow a lot of it — hundreds of millions, maybe billions — for civil works projects that will be needed to keep sea level rise from inundating streets, homes and businesses in Florida in coming decades.

Guess who is going to pick up that extra cost of those bonds? Taxpayers.

So far, some South Florida counties and cities, which have already invested in or are planning projects to adapt to the threat of rising seas, are making moves to offset what amounts to a hidden cost of climate change. Miami Beach has famously invested nearly half a billion dollars in pumps and road raising, and Miami voters just approved the $400 million Miami Forever bond to address issues like sea level rise.

Edwards, Brandes file bills to prevent wastewater discharges

In order to encourage public and private utilities to upgrade the infrastructure supporting their wastewater treatment and pumping systems, two legislators have filed companion bills to offer incentives and create programs to help utilities gain compliance with today's industry standards.

Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, has filed HB 837 and Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes — whose city has been plagued with sewage spills in recent years — has filed SB 244 — legislation that arose principally out of Hurricane Irma's aftermath.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, more than 9 million gallons of wastewater were released throughout Florida post-Irma because of loss of power, resulting in 989 separate spills due to loss of power. The spills necessitated "boil water notices" in almost 40 counties.

In recent years, heavy rains have exposed deficiencies in utilities' wastewater pumping capabilities throughout the state of Florida, Edwards points out in a media statement. Due to aging infrastructure that has highlighted the presence of decaying pipes, outdated pumping stations, septic tanks that are susceptible to overflows during flooding, and a lack of generators necessary to keep stations online during a power outage, millions of gallons of wastewater have spilled into waterways and onto city streets throughout the state.

The 2017 hurricane season is finally over. Why was it so bad?

Hurricane season just ended. Looking back on devastating storms like Harvey, Irma, and Maria, you may wonder if climate change played a role. Carl Parker, hurricane specialist with The Weather Channel, says there’s little room for doubt that climate change is making hurricanes more intense. Parker: “Yes, the atmosphere is changing, we are seeing storms that are different from anything we’ve seen in the past, and yes, the warming of the climate system does play a significant role in this.” 'There's little room for doubt that #climate change is making hurricanes more intense.' CLICK TO TWEET He says the main reason is warmer ocean waters. Parker: “It takes a lot of different things to make a hurricane, but all of those things being equal, if there’s more warmth in the oceans then there’s going to be more fuel, more power, for the hurricanes.” As the world warms, the atmosphere can hold more water vapor, so a single storm can produce more rainfall. And, he says, warming may cause changes to the jet stream that can slow weather systems down, so a storm may stay longer in one place, increasing the damage. Parker says it can be hard to believe that something as powerful and unpredictable as a hurricane can be influenced by human activity. But … Parker: “As people have more experience with these things … I think that is going to really change their minds.” Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Aqua by the Bay judge hears conflicting testimony about wetlands permit

Environmental experts challenge developer’s claims during administrative hearing

A former Manatee County commissioner and several environmental experts testified Wednesday that the controversial Aqua by the Bay development should be denied a special wetlands permit because it does not achieve its stated goals of “preservation and enhancement” of mangroves, seagrasses and other environmentally sensitive areas on Sarasota Bay.

Their comments completed two days of conflicting testimony before Judge D. R. Alexander of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, who conducted the proceedings at the Sarasota office of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

A day earlier, witnesses for the developers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection claimed the disputed permit will ensure preservation of crucial wetlands in perpetuity.

Alexander returned to Tallahassee to issue a written ruling in the case. Before doing so, he must weigh evidence and opinions presented during the two-day hearing by the developers and the DEP, as well as counter-arguments proffered by petitioners challenging the permit the DEP intends to authorize.

In October, the Manatee County Commission unanimously approved a project by developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman called Aqua by the Bay, a community on 529 acres largely between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay. The Cargor Partners plan calls for 2,894 residences and 78,000 square feet of commercial space in the bayfront area commonly called Long Bar Pointe.

As Long Bar Pointe LLP, the developers filed for a DEP permit to create and maintain a “mitigation bank” along two miles of shoreline. A mitigation bank is a site where a developer can receive credits for enhancing or restoring the environment. The credits can then be sold, typically for $100,000 or more each, to offset, or mitigate, wetlands impacts elsewhere in the region.

The application to the DEP calls for removing invasive Brazilian peppers from marshes, uplands and mangroves; planting native vegetation; and obtaining a separate permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to install buoy markers in state waters outside the bank cautioning boaters to stay out of the seagrasses. Seagrasses can be damaged by boat propellers.

The developers would also reserve the right to apply for a separate DEP permit to trim more than 36 acres of mangroves to a height of 12 feet.

Construction would be barred in the mitigation area.

Learn about crowdsourcing water level data at Dec. 19th webinar

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with the University of North Carolina, Institute of Marine Sciences, has developed a water level reporting application. The application collects and aggregates reports of observed water levels submitted through citizen scientists. These contributions are photographs with locations and a few simple details that will help weather predictors, scientists, and the public to better visualize and understand changing water levels. This application can be used globally to document high water levels at the coast, such as king tide events, but also far inland, such as snow melt or heavy rainfall events.

Various state and federal partners are currently using water level reports and photographs as communication and model validation tools. Explore the web-based application: What’s your water level? Or log a report from your mobile device.​

Date: Tuesday – December 19, 2017
Time: 12:00 – 1:00 PM ET

About the Presenter

Christine Buckel has been a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science since 2001. She is an ecologist and examines geospatial relationships of species and habitats in the marine environment. Most recently she has been examining these relationships and human interactions under future conditions with sea level rise. She has degrees from University of Nebraska (BS) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (MS).

The webinar is being sponsored by the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA).

Reserve your spot »

DEP secretary rejects judge's recommendation, denies Everglades oil drilling permit

A state agency chief on Monday issued an order denying a permit for oil drilling in western Broward County, despite an administrative law judge's recommendation that the permit be issued.

Judge Gary Early in October said evidence from a hearing in May showed the risk to the Everglades and regional water supplies from oil drilling was insignificant. He recommended the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reverse itself and issue a permit to the Kanter family for an exploratory well west of Miramar.

But DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein wrote Monday that his department had not issued a permit for oil and gas exploration in the Everglades since 1967. And he noted the Legislature, in adopting the Everglades Forever Act in 1991, designated the drilling site as being within the boundaries of Everglades restoration.

"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is committed to protecting Florida’s one-of-a-kind natural resources, including the environmentally sensitive Everglades, and administering Florida’s environmental laws," DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said. "After careful review and consideration, DEP today executed a final order denying Kanter Real Estate’s application for a drilling permit in the Everglades."

Study to determine number of red snapper in Gulf of Mexico

A team of 21 scientists will conduct a study to estimate the number of red snapper in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The panel of researchers from universities and state and federal agencies was convened by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, and awarded $9.5 million in federal funds, The Sun Herald reported. The project will receive another $2.5 million from the universities.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross highlighted the important of access to and long-term sustainability of red snapped to Gulf communities.

"American communities across the Gulf of Mexico depend on their access to, as well as the longterm sustainability of, red snapper," Ross said in a statement announcing the formation of the team. "I look forward to the insights this project will provide as we study and manage this valuable resource."

Sick birds this time of year could mean undetected algal blooms

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At the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, or C.R.O.W., on Sanibel, some birds were reacquainted with the outdoors in a wired enclosure last week.

Veterinarian Julia Hill was checking up on them.

“We have pelicans and cormorants out here right now," said Hill. "It has an in-ground pool with filtered water that we can give them as they recover and it lets them start to fly again and socialize prior to releasing.”

These are birds that naturally don’t often make a lot of noise. However, these silent birds act as an alarm, signaling that something isn’t right in the environment.

Last month, the rehab center got an influx of sick pelicans and cormorants.

“They couldn’t move around very well," Hill said. "They looked like they were drunk.”

The birds had gastrointestinal problems, trouble breathing. Some were coughing up blood.

Hill said those are symptoms of exposure to red tide. But when these birds started coming in back in October, there were no indications of red tide from satellites or from instruments used to detect it.

Scientists monitor red tide increase off southwest Florida

The public can enhance monitoring using Mote’s smartphone app

Researchers are monitoring elevated levels of the naturally occurring Florida red tide algae, Karenia brevis, along southwest Florida. The public can follow online updates from multiple monitoring partners and even report coastal conditions using Mote Marine Laboratory’s new smartphone app.

Red tide monitoring and prediction in Florida is accomplished through a unique collaboration between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC’s) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the Florida Department of Health, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), county agencies, other private non-profit agencies, and citizen volunteers. The FWC-Mote Red Tide Cooperative Program leads joint research, monitoring and public education efforts focused on K. brevis red tide.

The single-celled K. brevis alga occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico and is observed throughout the year at concentrations considered to be “background.” Higher-than-normal concentrations of K. brevis can include “very low,” “low,” “medium,” and “high” levels. (Below is a table describing these concentrations and their possible effects.*)

During the past two weeks, water samples confirmed a bloom of K. brevis along Lee County, with several samples observed to contain high concentrations of K. brevis. Also during the past two weeks, background to low concentrations were observed in Charlotte County, background to very low concentrations in Sarasota County, and background concentrations in Manatee and Hillsborough counties, according weekly reports issued Nov. 18 and 22 by FWC, which gathers and analyzes red tide data and compiles data from partners statewide, including Mote in Sarasota County.

EPA, Army propose to delay WOTUS implementation

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) are proposing to amend the effective date of the 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States.” The agencies are proposing that the 2015 rule would not go into effect until two years after today’s action is finalized and published in the Federal Register. This amendment would give the agencies the time needed to reconsider the definition of “waters of the United States.”

“Today’s proposal shows our commitment to our state and tribal partners and to providing regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and businesses,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This step will allow us to minimize confusion as we continue to receive input from across the country on how we should revise the definition of the ‘waters of the United States.’”

The 2015 rule, which redefined the scope of where the Clean Water Act applies, had an effective date of August 28, 2015. Implementation of the 2015 rule is currently on hold as a result of the Sixth Circuit’s nationwide stay of the rule, but that stay may be affected by a pending Supreme Court case. The 2015 rule is also stayed in 13 states due to a North Dakota district court ruling. EPA and the Army are taking this action to provide certainty and consistency to the regulated community.

"The Army, together with the Army Corps of Engineers, propose this rule with EPA to help continue to provide clarity and predictability to the regulated public during the rule making process. We are committed to implementing the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program as transparently as possible for the regulated public," said Mr. Ryan Fisher, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works).

This action follows the February 28, 2017, Presidential Executive Order on "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule." The February Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution.

The agencies’ proposal is separate from the two-step process the agencies propose to take to reconsider the 2015 rule. The comment period for the Step 1 rule closed in September and the agencies are currently working to review the comments received from the public. The agencies are also in the process of holding listening sessions with stakeholders as we work to develop a proposed Step 2 rule that would revise the definition of “waters of the United States.”

The agencies will be collecting public comment on this proposal for 21 days after publication in the Federal Register and plan to move quickly to take final action in early 2018.

(Source: EPA)

Green sea turtle nest numbers hit record

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Today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced a record year for the number of green sea turtle nests in Florida. FWC staff documented approximately 39,000 green sea turtle nests, based on 27 Florida index beaches used to assess nesting trends.

The final 2017 sea turtle nesting numbers from the FWC’s more comprehensive Statewide Nesting Beach Survey, covering 800 miles of Florida coastline, will be available in early 2018. Preliminary data, based on the recently completed Index Nesting Beach Survey, indicates the trend for green sea turtle nesting has experienced significant increases over the past 27 years.

“The success of our green sea turtles is a victory for conservation,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “After years of many people and agencies working to conserve this species and its marine habitats, numbers of green sea turtles in our coastal waters and nesting on our beaches have increased substantially. Last year, the green sea turtles that nest on Florida beaches were reclassified from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened’ under the federal Endangered Species Act.”

Nearly 30 years ago, only 464 green sea turtle nests were recorded on the 200 miles of beaches that are part of the Index Nesting Beach Survey. By 2011, the count was up to 10,701 green sea turtle nests; in 2013, it was 25,553 nests; and in 2015, it was about 28,000. The counts on index beaches represent about 68 percent of green sea turtle nests statewide. Green sea turtles nest more abundantly every other year, which contributes to the two-year spikes in their nesting numbers in Florida.

For more information about trends in sea turtle nest counts on Florida beaches, visit MyFWC.com/Research.

Photo source: FWC