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

Water-Related News

Tampa Bay Watch seeking fall interns

College students sought for Estuary EDventures fall internships

Tampa Bay Watch is seeking college interns for its Estuary EDventures fall/winter season. Estuary EDventures field-trip programs focus on marine science including: labs, dissections, citizen science, and field adventures. Responsibilities include facilitating programs to various age groups, species collection, and program and aquarium husbandry support. Schedules require a minimum of a two-day commitment, Tuesday-Friday, 9 AM to 2 PM, from September to mid-January.

To apply, send an email of interest and resume to internships@tampabaywatch.org. Hiring concludes August 20th. Positions are unpaid.

Educators, register now for free Project WILD/Aquatic WILD workshop

Educators, save the date for September 21 – FREE educational workshop

Formal and non-formal educators are invited to a workshop at the Tampa Bay Watch Marine Education Center to learn new hands-on activities as well as tactics to bring nature back to your classroom! This FREE educational workshop will include example lesson plans as well as your own copy of Project WILD and Aquatic WILD guide books. Formal and non-formal educators welcome! Reservations are required. Space is limited. Workshop is from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21st.

Please e-mail amitchell@tampabaywatch.org to sign-up! For more information, call Tampa Bay Watch at 727-867-8166 x247.

Treating nutrients with algae blooms

By Betty Staugler, Charlotte County extension agent for the Florida Sea Grant Program

No, there’s not a typo in my headline. In fact, this technology is so cool, you really should continue to read. With all the bad press about algae, we often forget that it really can be beneficial. In fact, algae are responsible for much of the air we breathe, and they form the base of the food web upon which all life depends.

I suspect most readers are aware that algal blooms often occur when too many nutrients enter our waterbodies. With this understanding, a novel approach to remove nutrients from a waterway was developed and patented in 1980s by Dr. Walter Adey at the National Museum of History: The algae turf scrubber, or ATS.

The basic idea: Run the water across a shallow trough or raceway, upon which attached filamentous algae are allowed to grow. The algae treat the water by taking up nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, as they grow.

Where does the algae come from? Provide the right conditions — sunlight, water and nutrients — and algae will establish naturally. What grows is the same green filamentous algae we often see attached to rocks and seagrass in shallow areas. Only in this case, instead of being a nuisance, it’s beneficial.

Report: Red tide and aftermath killed 174 dolphins

Scores of dolphins have died along Florida’s southwest coast due to the red tide bloom in the past year, federal researchers said.

Figures released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed 174 dolphins were stranded in a mass die-off between last July and last week.

Fish, sea turtles and manatees also have died from the red tide bloom, which plagued the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast from November 2017 through January of this year.

While red tide has diminished and the rate of dolphin deaths off Florida’s southwest coast has slowed down, researchers in recent months have seen deaths from the secondary effects of red tide.

Those include dolphins consuming fishing gear because the red tide fish kill reduced the supply of the dolphin’s usual diet of mullet and trout, forcing them to search for food in atypical places, Blair Mase, NOAA’s stranding response program coordinator, said July 5.

Researchers in recent months also have found unusual food in the dolphins’ stomachs, such as crabs and eels.

“We’re also seeing underweight animals,” Mase said.

Red tides happen naturally and have appeared sporadically off the state’s coast for ages, but many believe humans have made the problem worse. This past year’s bloom caused respiratory irritations in people near Southwest Florida beaches.

Anna Maria Island uses infiltration systems to capture storm water

On a rainy day like Tuesday, Anna Maria Island is especially prone to flooding. But city staff said an island-wide project is helping eliminate the large amounts of water known to drown the main road through town.

The city engineer for Holmes and Bradenton Beach, Lynn Burnett, said high tide and even slight rains are enough to create the perfect storm for their roadways.

“When it rains, the more opportunity that the water has to get into the ground and not just flood out the streets and your low level or ground level homes, [the better]" said Burnett. "That’s the goal: the goal is really for flood reduction, as much a possible.”

Burnett said anyone driving through the neighborhoods where the system hasn’t been installed yet has to drive through a foot of water. But city staff said they’ve found the solution: infiltration systems to capture the storm water through the entire island.

“We had a great downpour yesterday and the evening before and it’s working,” said Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth.

Scientists discover the biggest seaweed bloom in the world

The record-breaking belt of brown algae stretches from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico—and it’s likely here to stay, says a team led by the USF College of Marine Science.

ST. PETERSBURG – Scientists led by the USF College of Marine Science used NASA satellite observations to discover the largest bloom of macroalgae in the world called the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt (GASB), as reported in Science.

They confirmed that the belt of brown macroalgae called Sargassum forms its shape in response to ocean currents, based on numerical simulations. It can grow so large that it blankets the surface of the tropical Atlantic Ocean from the west coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico. This happened last year when more than 20 million tons of it – heavier than 200 fully loaded aircraft carriers – floated in surface waters and some of which wreaked havoc on shorelines lining the tropical Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and east coast of Florida.

The team also used environmental and field data to suggest that the belt forms seasonally in response to two key nutrient inputs: one human-derived, and one natural.

In the spring and summer, Amazon River discharge adds nutrients to the ocean, and such discharged nutrients may have increased in recent years due to increased deforestation and fertilizer use. In the winter, upwelling off the West African coast delivers nutrients from deep waters to the ocean surface where the Sargassum grows.

“The evidence for nutrient enrichment is preliminary and based on limited field data and other environmental data, and we need more research to confirm this hypothesis,” said Dr. Chuanmin Hu of the USF College of Marine Science, who led the study and has studied Sargassum using satellites since 2006. “On the other hand, based on the last 20 years of data, I can say that the belt is very likely to be a new normal,” said Hu.

Hu spearheaded the work with first author Dr. Mengqiu Wang, a postdoctoral scholar in his Optical Oceanography Lab at USF. The team included others from USF, Florida Atlantic University, and Georgia Institute of Technology. The data they analyzed from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) between 2000-2018 indicates a possible regime shift in Sargassum blooms since 2011.

Scientists go microscopic to find answer to prevent blue-green algae

Scientists with U.S. Geological Survey’s southeast region and Caribbean Florida Water Science Center believe they can make a positive impact on the Southwest Florida water crisis and find an answer to prevent blue-green algae from returning.

Scientists will look at water in Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River and the life cycle of the algae that lives in that water.

“Scientists are collecting different water samples, some of which they’ll leave untreated,” said Dr. Barry Rosen with the scientific agency. “But others, they’ll add nutrients to, to see if any of those nutrients will have an impact on the life cycle of harmful algal blooms.”

It takes more than one mind to make this experiment a success.

“This definitely requires many different types of scientists and their expertise,” said Dr. Joe Lopez at Nova Southeastern University.

Inland flooding passes storm surge as #1 killer during hurricanes

If you live in Florida long enough, you learn storm surge is generally the number-one danger when it comes to hurricanes.

"We've seen a very large public outreach campaign over the past few years to educate people on the dangers of storm surge and people are responding. They're getting out of the way of these storms,” said Bryan Moraska, National Weather Service Meteorologist.

Now, the biggest killer related to water during hurricanes is inland flooding.

One devastating example -- Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

"We have seen a shift,” said Moraska.

From 2016 to 2018, out of all water-related hurricane fatalities, only 4 percent were blamed on storm surge. The rest, the large majority, are from drenching rainfall and flooding.

Florida may adopt limits on amount of toxins from blue-green algae blooms allowed in waterways

Blue-green algae is popping up all over Florida this summer.

It's in the canals of Gulfport and the Intracoastal Waterway in Treasure Island. In Bradenton, the Manatee River has turned green from the stuff, which the mayor of Holmes Beach calls "gumbo." In Lake Okeechobee, toxins have hit a level three times what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems safe. Meanwhile state officials have convened a Blue-Green Algae Task Force to figure out how to prevent such blooms in the future. So far they have concluded only that the state's current regulations, which rely largely on voluntary anti-pollution measures, don't work very well.

Amid fears of another summer of toxic algae afflicting the state and hurting its economy, officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection say they are considering new regulations on how much of the natural toxins are allowed in the state's waterways.

Five things to know about blue-green algae. (Yeah, it’s bad. And it’s getting worse.)

Three years ago, a foul-smelling blue-green algae bloom so thick it looked like guacamole shut down the beaches of Martin County over the Fourth of July. Last year, blue-green algae blooms again popped up in Lake Okeechobee and the rivers connected to it. This year, there are small blue-green algae blooms appearing in the waters of Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

It could be worse. A blue-green algae bloom in the northern Gulf of Mexico spurred Mississippi authorities to close all 21 of their beaches over the weekend. In 2014, a blue-green algae bloom in Lake Erie meant 500,000 people were without a source of drinking water.

What is blue-green algae, why does it keep appearing and what does that mean for your health? Here are some answers.

Armoring coast against sea level rise could cost big money in Sarasota and Manatee

Rising sea levels will create the need for more than $3 billion in new sea walls in Sarasota and Manatee counties by 2040, according to a new report that highlights the fiscal threat climate change poses to Southwest Florida.

The data compiled by the Center for Climate Integrity, an environmental activist group, raises questions about how communities will afford the enormous costs of climate change.

As a low-lying peninsula, Florida is especially susceptible to the effects of rising seas. Florida has more coastline than any state other than Alaska, and armoring much of it to protect against sea level rise will be hugely expensive, costing roughly $76 billion statewide by 2040, according to the report.

Florida’s price tag for sea wall construction is nearly double the cost faced by Louisiana, the state that will need the next-highest amount of coastal armoring by 2040.

Those expenses — which will be spread among private individuals seeking to protect their own properties and local governments trying to safeguard public infrastructure — will be difficult for communities to absorb.

“The real question here is ... what are we going to do with the very small communities that have very large costs? How are we going to pay for that and who’s going to make those decisions?” asked Paul Chinowsky, one of the lead scientists who worked on the report and the CEO of Resilient Analytics, the firm that analyzed the data for the report.

Warm temperatures bring cyanobacteria blooms to Sarasota Bay

Cyanobacteria FAQs from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program:

It’s hard not to notice some strange stuff surfacing in many areas around our bays this summer. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Algae Bloom Monitoring and Response team identified Lyngbya majuscula, a type of cyanobacterium, in many bays between Anna Maria Island and Venice in May and June. Many of those blooms are still visible as they decompose. Another species of cyanobacteria, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, was detected in the freshwater reaches of the Manatee River in early July. FDEP is working to identify other samples taken around the region. (Click here to see sampling locations and results in an interactive map.)

What is Lyngbya majuscula?
Lyngbya majuscula is a type of cyanobacterium, meaning that it is part of a group of bacteria that obtain energy through photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria are commonly known as “blue-green algae.” While some cyanobacteria cause harmful algae blooms (HABs), most are beneficial. Their ranks include Prochlorococcus, a genus of tiny marine cyanobacteria that are some of the most important oxygen-producers on Earth.

Lyngbya species are found in coastal tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. L. majuscula is only one of several species of Lyngbya found in central and southern Florida waters.

How do Lyngbya mats form?
Lyngbya blooms have been tied to water temperature increases and to pulses of nutrient sources including nitrogen, iron, and phosphorus. Lyngbya majuscula blooms form in sedi

Southwest Florida blue crab trap closure starts July 10, followed by Big Bend trap closure

Recreational and commercial blue crab traps in state waters from the Palm Beach-Broward county line to the Pasco-Hernando county line must be removed from the water before July 10, the first day of a 10-day trap closure. This closure will give groups authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water.

Traps may be placed back in the water in this area starting on July 20. Until then, blue crabs may be harvested with other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps. Blue crab harvesters may also use standard blue crab traps during the closure if the traps are attached to a dock or other private property.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps are a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can continue to trap crabs and fish when left in the water. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.

DEP announces support to help communities prepare for sea level rise

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Resilient Coastlines Program announces that nearly $1.6 million in grant funding has been awarded for fiscal year 2019-20 to strengthen resilience initiatives for 30 coastal communities in 17 coastal counties in Florida.

“These grants are incredibly important to the sustainability and protection of our natural resources and Florida’s coastal communities,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “I am proud of the work we are doing around the state to prepare for the impacts of sea level rise, and I know we will continue to protect Florida together.”

Grants are provided through the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection’s Florida Resilient Coastlines Program, and are specifically designed to assist local governments with resilience planning and funding assistance to implement those plans. Resilience Planning Grants (RPG) provide financial assistance to aid Florida communities in promoting resilience planning; developing vulnerability assessments, adaptation plans, comprehensive plan goals, objectives and policies; and regional coordination.

Algae blooms plague waterways, inch toward AMI

The mats of Lyngbya wollei, also known as brown “gumbo” algae, were so thick in the waters in Robinson Preserve June 27 that wading birds stood on them.

That’s the report Michael Elswick, manager of the natural resources division of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, forwarded his boss, Charlie Hunsicker.

Mats as thick as 12 inches and as large as two-tenths of an acre clogged the waterways at the preserve, preventing kayakers from passing through and “stopping a jon boat cold,” Elswick wrote in the email.

Lyngbya “gumbo” algae is a type of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae common in the spring-summer months around Anna Maria Island. It forms thick mats that resemble clumps of grass and sewage at the water surface, mostly in backwaters and bays.

Land management rangers and supervisors from the county natural resources department moved the brown algae, dragging large clumps to the mouth of the Manatee River and into its current.

Red tide could be to blame for algae problems at Robinson Preserve

Red Tide may have been a contributing factor to Robinson Preserve's recent algae woes, according to Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker. The county has been hard at work clearing giant "algae mats" that had been clogging up internal water bodies at Robinson, leaving behind a malodorous environment, while preventing kayak access to certain areas.

Michael Elswick, Manager of the department's Natural Resources Division, reported in an email on June 27 that the county had removed "many tons" of the algae, and that the largest mat was about 1/5 of an acre large and 12 inches thick, comprised of the blue-green Lyngbya algae—which is actually brown in color. He said his workers had successfully cleared the blocked waterways by 1:00 p.m. that afternoon.

Hunsicker told commissioners that much of the algae floating into Robinson was from sources in and around the Manatee River. Hunsicker said he felt that the legacy of our recent red tide bloom could have had an impact by taking out so much marine life that then decayed at the bottom of waterways, causing things like methane and carbon dioxide to be released during decomposition, making the algae more buoyant. He said it's a cycle that happens annually, but would have been increased by last year's historic red tide bloom.
 

Volunteers Create Vertical Oyster Gardens for Gulfport

A new effort is working to help clean the salt water that surrounds Gulfport and raise environmental awareness about the Tampa Bay estuary.

On the morning of Saturday, June 29, about a dozen Gulfport residents joined scores of other volunteers at Tampa Bay Watch (TBW), a non-profit located in Tierra Verde, to create vertical oyster gardens (VOGs).

TBW was recently awarded a $5,000 mini grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to create a year-long VOG monitoring program, said Environmental Specialist Erick Plage.

That’s where Gulfport comes in.

As part of a grassroots effort led by Vice Mayor Paul Ray and Gecko Queen Jon Ziegler, 500 of the 1,150 free VOGs made during the workshop will be installed at the municipal marina. Ziegler also works for TBW.

Water quality measurements will be taken just before installation then also by trained citizen volunteers at the 6- and 12-month milestone points, said Plage.

The project’s goals are to train volunteers to be long-term “stewards of the bay” and to help clean the water, he said.

Each three-foot long VOG encourages from 50 to 100 juvenile oysters to attach where they can grow to adulthood. When each oyster matures to a maximum of about 70 to 80 millimeters in size, it can filter from one to five gallons of salt water per hour, said Plage.

Oysters are filter feeders, he said. While filtering water for food like algae, they also filter out contaminants such as storm drain runoff along with pesticides, fertilizers, nutrients and the algae that feed red tide blooms.

All aspects of Florida water quality discussed at task force meeting

The people working to keep nuisance, green muck out of our waterways are digging into every aspect of what leads to it and how to prevent it from coming back. And they brought the conversation to Southwest Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Blue-Green Algae Task Force met at the Lee County School Board chambers in Fort Myers Monday to discuss the water crisis centered around Lake Okeechobee.

“The focus of the task force here isn’t on what pot of money we have to spend,” said Dr. Tom Frazer, Florida’s chief science officer. “It’s can we identify solutions.”

Discussions focused on the technology and agricultural aspects involved in Florida’s water quality as well as laying out a road map for improving the quality of water on our coast and statewide.

“Today, we hit pretty hard on agricultural [best management practices],” Frazer said. “But next time, we’re going to deal with septic systems, right? We’re going to talk more about these innovative technologies after we talk about some of the criteria we want to develop to evaluate them today.”

During discussions, Frazer explained the role agriculture plays in our water quality.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis signs bill to change environmental enforcement

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Tuesday a measure that will shift 19 law enforcement officers focused on environmental crimes from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the Department of Environmental Protection.

The bill (HB 5401) is part of a series of environmental proposals DeSantis rolled out in January, including increased funding for Everglades restoration and water projects.

DeSantis said during a bill-signing ceremony Tuesday at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center in Stuart that shifting the law-enforcement officers should make enforcement of environmental laws more effective.

The creation of the Division of Law Enforcement within the Department of Environmental Protection will take effect Monday.

DeSantis noted that it was pitched by his transition team as he took office in January.

Governor vetoes $2 million Bradenton Beach Gulf Drive project

Not all municipal funding requests make it to the state’s final budget.

Even fewer make it past the governor’s desk.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a $90.9 billion budget June 21, including funding for two of three Bradenton Beach appropriation bills filed for the state’s 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

DeSantis approved the city’s requests for $500,000 to fund seagrass mitigation and $2,694,248 for a flood prevention program, sending $3,194,248 in total from Tallahassee to Bradenton Beach.

However, the governor line-item vetoed the city’s request for $2,000,000 to improve Gulf Drive for multimodal use, specifically to improve bike and pedestrian routes along Gulf Drive.

The local request for money from the state transportation fund, submitted by the city in March, stated, “The project will implement sustainable alternative transportation modes that will reduce the need for motorized vehicles and provide safer transportation alternatives which will reduce emissions and pollutant loadings to Sarasota Bay. Measures will be installed along SR 789 (Gulf Drive) and the main bike/pedestrian routes providing a connection to the water taxi hub and main commercial area in Bradenton Beach.”

People love riding horses in Tampa Bay waters. But what about all the poop?

You can spot the horses from far away, little dots out in the water of Tampa Bay. Drive south on Interstate 275 toward Sarasota on a weekday morning or a pleasant Saturday and they’re probably there, splashing around in a single file line off the North Skyway Bridge Park.

Up close, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular attractions on the local Trip Advisor page. Perched on their saddles, tourists ooh and ahh at the view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge looming along the horizon. If they’re lucky, they might spot a sting ray gliding below or a dolphin’s fin slice through the waves.

The main event comes when it’s time for the horses to swim. The riders kick their heels against their mares and click their tongues. Submerged up to their necks, the horses paddle through the waters. They whinny and snort, furiously bobbing their heads and kicking their hooves.

But back at the shoreline, the water lapping against the sand is dotted with greenish brown lumps the size of softballs.

Horse poop.

2019 State of the Bay report: Water quality in Tampa Bay continues to improve

Seagrass Chart

The state of Tampa Bay report comes out every three years, and the latest one shows the water body is in pretty good shape. It wasn't too long ago that pollution killed a lot of life in the bay.

The report says the bay is continuing its upswing, both in the clarity of the water and its numbers of fish and oysters. Ed Sherwood, executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, says sea grasses are nearly double the amount found in the 1970s.

"But the issues from last year related to the red tide and some of the ongoing algal bloom we have still in Old Tampa Bay," he said, "keeps us cognizant of the fact that we still need to do our best to reduce nutrient loads coming from a variety of different sources in our watershed and going into our water bodies."

Sherwood says the area's burgeoning human population remains a challenge, as well as rising seas nipping away at mangroves and coastal marshes.

He says they have been successful in reducing emissions from point sources, such as sewage outfalls, and from power plants. Summertime fertilizer bans have helped, but runoff from creeks and streams remains a problem.

"We're actively pursuing a lot of shellfish oyster restoration projects, particularly in Old Tampa Bay, because we think that will have a dual benefit of not only enhancing those habitats, but potentially improving water quality," Sherwood said. "There's an algal bloom that occurs every summer there called paradinium that blooms there basically because there's poor tidal circulation in Old Tampa Bay. And we think that restoring oysters in that part of the bay will help water qualit

Algae blooms plague waterways, inch toward AMI

The mats of Lyngbya wollei, also known as brown “gumbo” algae, were so thick in the waters in Robinson Preserve June 27 that wading birds stood on them.

That’s the report Michael Elswick, manager of the natural resources division of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, forwarded his boss, Charlie Hunsicker.

Mats as thick as 12 inches and as large as two-tenths of an acre clogged the waterways at the preserve, preventing kayakers from passing through and “stopping a jon boat cold,” Elswick wrote in the email.

Lyngbya “gumbo” algae is a type of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae common in the spring-summer months around Anna Maria Island. It forms thick mats that resemble clumps of grass and sewage at the water surface, mostly in backwaters and bays.

Land management rangers and supervisors from the county natural resources department moved the brown algae, dragging large clumps to the mouth of the Manatee River and into its current.

“They corralled the algae, moved it into the tidal channel and constructed a floating turbidity barrier to keep it from coming back in,” Hunsicker told The Islander June 27.

The preserve clearing operation took about four hours.

Florida oceans and coasts strategic plan to be developed

A half-million dollar state grant will be used to develop a strategic plan for the Sunshine State’s oceans and coasts, the Florida Ocean Alliance announced Wednesday.

The alliance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan partnership of private industry, trade, academic, and environmental organizations, aims to bring awareness to the ocean’s importance to the economy and environment of Florida.

“The project addresses both legislative and public concerns over Florida’s recent water crisis,” Stan Payne, chair of the Florida Ocean Alliance and director of the Seaport and Airport in St. Lucie County, stated in a news release issued by the alliance. “We will offer resilience solutions to these problems as the state strives to cope with these issues.”

The effort originally was outlined in legislation pushed by state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican, and state Rep. Chris Latvala, a Clearwater Republican. Eventually, the key language of their bills was rolled into the state budget bill.

The alliance intends to host public hearings across the state before drafting a strategic plan to address conservation and management of the state’s estuaries, bays and oceans.

Florida DEP confirms blue-green algae in Bradenton as parts of Manatee River turn bright green

Florida's Department of Environmental Protection confirms blue-green algae is present in Bradenton as parts of the Manatee River turn bright green.

Viewers sent us photos along the canals near Ellenton, where they have found dead fish.

A spokesperson for DEP said they can confirm the blue-green algae as it was observed and tested in the Manatee River and nearby canals.

However, the toxicity results are not complete yet.

Ryan McClash said he has spent his entire life in the Bradenton area and has never seen the water like this.

"It's kind of like when they dye the river green in Chicago for St. Patrick's Day, except you get a slime layer on the top and there's little green chunks in it," McClash said.

Report: Rising seas could cost Florida $75 billion over 20 years

A new national study concludes that rising sea levels could cost U.S. states more than $400 billion over the next 20 years. And Florida has the highest price tag.

The report is by the environmental advocacy group Center for Climate Integrity. It says Florida would have to pay around $75 billion to build new seawalls to defend against a two-foot sea level rise by 2040.

The report uses seawalls as a common metric that can be used nationwide. But seawalls aren't environmentally friendly, and they are impractical for places like the Florida Keys, which are islands. The report says there are other ways to protect coastlines, including beach renourishment, raising roads and infrastructure and improving drainage.

Center director Richard Wiles says in an era of exploding federal debt, getting funding help from Washington is more difficult. He says so-called "polluters" should pay for rising seas, similar to the way tobacco companies were sued for health risks.

"The entirety of the fossil fuel community, if you will, industry, needs to be responsible for literally bailing out those communities and making sure they have a future where people can live where they've always lived," he said.

NASA helps warn of harmful algal blooms in lakes, reservoirs

Harmful algal blooms can cause big problems in coastal areas and lakes across the United States. When toxin-containing aquatic organisms multiply and form a bloom, it can sicken people and pets, contaminate drinking water, and force closures at boating and swimming sites.

With limited resources to monitor these often-unpredictable blooms, water managers are turning to new technologies from NASA and its partners to detect and keep track of potential hazards. This is particularly critical in lakes and reservoirs that people use for both recreation and water supply.

A new app for Android mobile devices, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and now available on Google play, will alert officials and members of the public when a harmful algal bloom could be forming, depending on specific changes in the color of the water observed by satellites. The app is a product of the multi-agency Cyanobacteria Assessment Network, or CyAN.

“The interest is to use remote sensing as an eye-in-the-sky, early warning system to get a picture of harmful cyanobacteria in U.S. inland lakes,” said Jeremy Werdell, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center lead for CyAN, which also includes the EPA, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Gov. DeSantis signs bill giving Sarasota’s Mote $18 million to fight red tide

The laboratory will develop technologies that can fight the toxic algae.

SARASOTA — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Thursday that will put Mote Marine Laboratory at the forefront of efforts to combat red tide in Florida.

The bill, which was championed by Senate President Bill Galvano, allocates $18 million over six years for Mote to develop technologies that can fight red tide blooms.

Lawmakers crafted the measure in response to last year’s devastating bloom that killed sea life in Southwest Florida, fouled the air and water and hurt the region’s tourism industry.

“If we don’t do all that we can to maintain our natural resources, you will see our economy suffer,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis and legislative leaders are touting the measure as a major step toward reducing the harmful effects of red tide, even as some environmental advocates argue lawmakers have not done enough to tackle nutrient pollution that can feed the toxic algae blooms.

Red tide blooms start offshore and are naturally occurring. But when the blooms move near shore they can feed on nutrients that leach into the water from sources such as fertilizer runoff, leaky septic tanks and sewage spills.

Senate Bill 1552 — dubbed the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative — does not address the problem of excessive nutrients in coastal waterways. Instead of trying to cut off the algae’s food source, the legislation - which was sponsored by State Sen. Joe Gruters and state Rep. Michael Grant - seeks to fight the blooms through technology.

June 23-29 is Mosquito Awareness Week

mosquito image

Next week is Mosquito Control Awareness Week! Now that it’s mosquito season, it is the perfect time to look in and around your home for ways to control mosquitoes that can carry viruses like Zika and West Nile.

Here are some simple steps that citizens can take to help control mosquito populations:

  • Empty water from any item that can hold water.
    Examples: flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, boat tarps, old tires and buckets.
  • Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
  • Flush ornamental bromeliads or treat with BTI, a biological larvicide available at home stores.
  • Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water.
  • Change the water in outdoor pet dishes regularly.
  • Keep pools and spas chlorinated and filtered.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.
  • Cover rain barrels with screening.
  • Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioning unit drip areas, around septic tanks and heat pumps.
  • Take steps to eliminate standing water, improve drainage and prevent future puddling.

“It’s important for residents to remember the three Ds of mosquito prevention,” said Brian Lawton, program manager for Pinellas County Vegetation Management and Mosquito Control. “Dress wisely, defend with a good mosquito repellent, and drain standing water.”