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Water-Related News

In response to growth, Manatee seeks to expand reclaimed water supply

Manatee County is doing research on a possible reclaimed water partnership with the city of Bradenton.

As new housing developments continue to spring up, Manatee County is researching more ways to provide reclaimed water for irrigation purposes.

Kevin Morris, the county’s deputy director of utilities, said that research includes the possibility of connecting reclaimed water lines with the city of Bradenton.

New pipes could allow the city, which often has a reserve, to provide reclaimed water to the county.

While Morris said the county has not encountered any issues yet with storing enough reclaimed water, he said a possible shortfall is projected by 2040.

The county already holds a significant amount of reclaimed water in lakes, ponds and deep injection wells.

However, the project would allow additional developments to tap into the county’s transmission mains. Morris said as new developments emerge, smaller pipes are constantly being added to feed them irrigation water.

FWC conducts workshop to explore ways to help pelicans at Sunshine Skyway fishing pier

Thousands of pelicans had to be rescued from possible death by becoming entangled in fishing lines and hooks in the past several years. A compromise between bird advocates and fishermen is in the works.

Environmental groups asked federal wildlife officials to step in after more than 2,300 pelicans had to be rescued in the past two years from becoming entangled in fishing lines at the Sunshine Skyway south pier.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is trying to solve the problem. During a virtual workshop Wednesday night, they tried to reach a compromise between anglers and advocates for the pelicans.

"We genuinely appreciate the ethical fishermen who are embracing these compromises and working together in a really positive way, and we agree on several points," Kate McFall, Florida state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said during the virtual meeting. "But the most important changes we have to see are the closing of the very end of the pier, prohibiting the multi-pronged hooks and lastly to require that anglers have a normal Florida fishing license from the FWC."

Some bird advocates want fishing banned in the busy winter months. And other want the state to hire full-time rescuers that are available to help anglers when they have entanglements.

Several fishermen said they believe educating anglers about the problem would be more beneficial to the birds than banning fishing gear.

Robert Olsen said more regulations are not a solution.

"I fish the Skyway pier frequently and I've never caught a pelican. But if I did, I don't know what to do in that case," Olsen said. "So I believe that a permit should be required, with the education of what to do involved in obtaining that permit for every angler that fishes the Skyway pier."

A fisherman who identified himself only as "Ed" supports a compromise.

"There needs to be some kind of rule, as you're trying to set forth, for these birds so we can protect these birds," he said. "At the same time, I think as a fisherman there has to be some kind of a give and take for both sides, as I think you're trying to do at this point."

Wildlife officials will give their recommendations at an upcoming meeting of the board of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Air-breathing, frog-hunting snakehead fish found in Manatee County

An aggressive, airbreathing, frog-killing fish was discovered living in a Manatee County freshwater pond, according to a recent study from the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History.

This is the first documented occurrence of the suave-named goldline snakehead fish in Gulf Coast waters. Snakeheads are native to Myanmar and western Thailand but were introduced to the wild worldwide for their popularity in ornamental fish trades and sport fishing.

Where in Manatee were they found?

The snakeheads were captured at a large, unnamed freshwater pond located in the Williams Creek watershed, a tributary of the Braden River.

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured nearly 400 snakeheads from June 2020 — the initial discovery — through May 2021. Field scientists completed numerous visual surveys by hand or boat electrofishing, finding the fish most often along the pond’s perimeter and vegetation. There were no confirmed sightings or evidence of snakeheads in any other waterways outside of the pond, according to the study.

USF engineering-led team awarded $2.5M federal grant for coastal harmful algal bloom research

USF engineers awarded $2.5 million federal grant to expand harmful algal bloom research along Florida coasts

Engineers from the USF College of Engineering are leading a team of scientists across the state in the development of a new, state-of-the-art system that allows water districts to better predict and manage harmful algal blooms.

The $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allows USF to work with researchers from the University of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District to address harmful algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River watersheds.

“Harmful algae blooms cause many negative environmental, health and economic effects throughout the state,” said principal investigator Mauricio Arias, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “This three-year grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supports the development of new state-of-the-art water quality data and models to better predict and manage harmful algae blooms in this vitally important and environmentally sensitive ecosystem.”

Harmful algae blooms occur when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often develop floating mats that produce unpleasant odors and may negatively impact fish, birds and other wildlife.

The research team will take a multidisciplinary approach to fill any knowledge gaps by utilizing tools that model water resources and water quality, physical oceanography and will engage with end-users.

“The goals of this project are to generate actionable knowledge and develop a tool that will allow managers to better predict and manage harmful algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River watersheds,” said Wendy Graham, director of the University of Florida Water Institute.

Recent cold fronts were good news for Tampa Bay’s red tide situation. At least for now.

As the head of Florida’s red tide research center said: Conditions have improved, but “there’s still red tide around.”

ST. PETERSBURG — Under Karen Henschen’s microscope, a single drop of ocean water comes to life.

Popcorn-colored cells float around like butterflies. They dart, then pause, then dart again. An entire world teems with motion in an amount of water that would barely cover the face of a penny.

“What we’re looking at here are Karenia brevis cells, which are what cause Florida’s red tide,” said Henschen, a research associate at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg. “They’re beautiful, they’re healthy and they’re eating well. In short, they’re surviving.”

That may be good news for the algae species, but not for humans.

Beaches battered by hurricanes will get help in Sarasota and Manatee counties

Beaches that were eroded by waves and wind from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole last year will get help, with funding just announced.

The state on Wednesday allocated $100 million to help rebuild beaches devastated by last year's hurricanes. It includes restoration projects in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The money will be used for beach renourishment projects in 16 counties that were impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The money includes $305,000 for Manatee County and $618,000 for Sarasota County.

The money is in addition to $20 million awarded in November to help several local governments immediately address erosion problems. Beaches are considered the first defense against storms, preventing waves from reaching inland dunes and beachside developments. A wide beach system absorbs wave energy, protects upland areas from flooding, and prevents erosion.

"Beaches are vital not only to the environment and the state’s economy, but are most importantly our first line of defense against storms,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “I am thankful for the support and leadership of Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature to accelerate restoration and further protect these impacted communities from future storm events.”

Longboat Key still waiting on New Pass groin permits

The project to keep sand from slipping through the rocky structure is the final portion of town's latest beach renourishment.

The New Pass groin tightening project, originally supposed to begin this month, will likely have to wait until after the 2023 sea turtle nesting season has wrapped up next fall, town officials said.

The town expected to receive permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in late 2022 to begin the work this winter, but even as the new year began, the paperwork still had not arrived, said Longboat Key Public Works Department Programs Director Charlie Mopps.

While the window on beginning the work this turtle off-season remains open if permits arrived promptly, town officials are making plans to wave off until late 2023 should permitting not arrive.

Registration open for Florida Waters Stewardship Program; Classes begin March 8th

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To make a difference in water quality for our community, we must understand how we interact with water. As Floridians, we are integrally connected to our streams and bays by our faucets and laundries, our neighborhood ponds and lakes, and our yards and streets. We are also connected to our regional and statewide neighbors by our surface and groundwater supplies.

In this program, participants will learn from professional experts, experience watershed science in the field, and practice communication skills to foster a greater understanding of our interactions with water and become stewards of our water resources.

During this seven-session course, stewards will travel to locations across Sarasota and Manatee counties to learn about emerging water issues, meet with local experts, and explore the natural beauty found in these areas.

Dinner will be served at each session.

Sessions include:

  • Mar. 8 (4:00 - 7:00 pm): Welcome and Overview at The NEST at Robinson Preserve.
  • Mar. 15 (4:00 - 7:00 pm): Watershed Basics and Stewardship at UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County - TBD.
  • Mar. 22 (4:00 - 7:00 pm): Changing Waterscapes + Working With Thorny Issues at Island Branch Library and Perico Preserve.
  • Mar. 29 (4:00 - 7:00 pm): Water Laws and Other Tools + The Power of Partnership at Turtle Beach.
  • Apr. 5 (4:00 - 7:00 pm): Future Water Supply & Emerging Issues + Communication at Carlton Water Treatment Facility.
  • Apr. 12 (4:00 - 7:00 pm): Stakeholder Panel Discussion + Stewardship Project Updates at Mote Marine Classroom.
  • Apr. 19 (4:00 - 7:00 pm): Speaking of Water + Elevator Stewardship / Graduation / Expected Outcomes at UF/IFAS Extension Manatee County - Kendrick Auditorium.

Cost: $125 per person plus service fee (Total $134.24). Registration is online via Eventbrite.

If the cost of this program will prevent you from participating, please complete a scholarship application. There are two full scholarships available for this program. Application deadline is at 11 pm on February 22, 2023.

This course has limited seating/availability. Please register early to reserve your spot. For more information about this course, please contact the Water Resources Agent, Michael D'Imperio, at mdimperio@ufl.edu or 941-861-9818.

No debate anymore: Climate change makes extreme weather worse, federal scientists say

Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) delivered a clear message: Climate change is — unequivocally — making extreme weather events worse.

South Florida has always been hot, rainy and vulnerable to hurricanes. So it’s understandable that some longtime residents remain skeptical that climate change is doing anything to make the region’s age-old problems any worse.

But scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) delivered a clear message Monday at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting in Denver, Colorado: Climate change is — unequivocally — making extreme weather events worse.

In fact, scientists can now go a step further and show that specific weather disasters were more likely or more damaging because we live in a hotter climate. At the meeting, scientists presented case studies of heat waves, droughts, and extreme rainfall events that were influenced by climate change over the past two years in the U.S., South Korea, China and other countries. A collection of these studies was also published Monday in a special report from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Update on Manatee County water main repairs

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MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County Utilities Department (MCUD) crews continue to focus repair efforts on a leak in the 42” transmission line at the Water Treatment Plant—a repair that has become more extensive than originally believed. The repair involves removal of a damaged portion of pipe and replacement with a new length of pipe. However, to fully isolate the area of repair—while keeping water flowing to the rest of the county—line stops need to be inserted into the surrounding transmission mains. This additional work is adding time to the repair effort.

County crews are working with contractors to procure materials and prepare the site for the repairs. Components of the line stops are being built and brought to site for the repairs, which are expected to be completed next month.

No service interruptions are anticipated during these repairs.

Florida’s emergency chief seeks changes in disaster response

Florida’s emergency-management director wants lawmakers to make changes to help with disaster preparation and response, pointing to issues that have arisen as the state recovers from Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.

Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie this week asked lawmakers to reduce the amount of time people have to remove damaged boats from waterways and to provide uniform requirements for local governments about debris-removal contracts. He also wants to tweak a new relief fund and shield from public records the names of people harmed by disasters.

“What we’re talking about is media outlets. We’re talking about lawyers, attorneys, those that are seeking to try to start making money off of disaster survivors and victims,” Guthrie told members of the Senate Select Committee on Resiliency as he described the proposed public records exemption.