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

Water-Related News

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.

Longboat Key adopts Motor Boats Prohibited areas on Greer Island

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The Longboat Key Town Commission adopted restrictions prohibiting the operation, anchoring and beaching of motorized vessels in two areas on the southeastern portion of the Greer Island Manatee County-owned Park, East of the Longboat Pass Bridge (location map).

The purpose is to protect public bathers that bathe, wade, lounge and congregate in and on the shallow waters of this portion of Greer Island from dangers caused by increased vessel operations along the beach. These areas will be limited to beach goers, waders, kayakers, paddleboarders and other non-motorized vessels.

Buoys marking the motorized vessels restricted areas will be installed prior to the 4th of July weekend. Boaters are advised to be aware of these areas and that violations will carry a $250 penalty for a 1st offense and $500 for any subsequent offenses.

For Additional Information:
Planning, Zoning & Building Department Director, Allen Parsons
941-316-1966

Manatee County invites residents to apply to join ELMAC committee

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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.

Manatee County continues Piney Point injection well work

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MANATEE COUNTY – In the ongoing effort to write the final chapter in the Piney Point site closure, Manatee County officials are working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to make minor modifications in its disposal permits.

The County Utilities Department has an application with the FDEP to modify a current permit to allow more injection of brine (saltwater) at the Buffalo Creek municipal well. This request comes after Allied Universal Industries—a local chlorine manufacturer whose products have been an integral part of the Piney Point pre-treatment process—has ramped up production at their Palmetto facility.

“This is a typical permit modification,” said Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes. “Allied has increased their chlorine production—at a plant that was built with Manatee County economic incentives—and we are fortunate that they are nearby Piney Point to help with the pre-treatment of that process water.”

Because of that increase in chlorine production, there has been an analogous uptick in the brine that is left over from that process, and the County is working with Allied to reduce their burden of its disposal with an alternative to trucking the saltwater that remains to disposal facilities in other Florida counties.

The Buffalo Creek Injection well was initially designed to dispose of brine that would have been created with a reverse-osmosis water filtration plan. This use would be a modification of the permit, but it is a similar use. Utilities staff and County administration have worked to make sure all regulatory benchmarks and best practices are met—and exceeded—throughout the permitting process.

Seeking a permit modification is a typical part of the regulatory process and does not represent a change in what will be disposed of in the well, nor does it mean that Piney Point process water will routinely go into the Buffalo Creek well. There have been some contingencies identified where that process water could go into the Buffalo Creek well, but that is only as a back-up.

“This is a real team effort,” said Administrator Hopes. “We are all doing everything we can to bring this Piney Point story to a close. Quickly. Completely. And safely.”

SBEP Director: Good news, bad news in red tide forecast

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Director’s Note: Outlook for red tide?

From Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Director Dave Tomasko

A bit of good news/bad news about the likelihood of red tides in the coming months. First, let’s do the “bad” news. If you’ve been watching the news about weather out west, it is incredibly hot and dry out there lately. Also, if you’ve been watching sunsets over the past few weeks (like I do) you’ve seen some beautiful red and orange ones off to the west. The old guidance of “red sky at night, sailors delight” reflects the fact that red skies indicate more particles in the air, which preferentially scatter blue light.

These atmospheric particles are typically associated with descending air masses, which are also high-pressure systems. These high-pressure systems to the west indicate low pressure systems to the east, since high and low pressure systems typically pair. Since our weather mostly moves west to east and since high pressure systems are less scary to sailors then low-pressure systems, that’s why a sailor loves seeing red sunsets. Same reason for “red sky at morning, sailor takes warning” – since that indicates a high to the east, and a paired low-pressure system to the west (where our weather comes from). And sailors hate low pressure systems, because they are associated with tropical events, for one thing. This long-standing guidance is also noted in the Bible - Matthew 16:2-3.

Unfortunately, our current atmospheric high is also loaded with dust from the Saharan Desert, according to NASA – A Burst of Saharan Dust (nasa.gov). Check any websites on Texas weather and you’ll see they are quite concerned about that dust fallout – not good if you have asthma or COPD. But also, Saharan dust contains lots of iron. I took the photo below five years ago on a flight from Jeddah to Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. It’s the Arabian Desert, not Saharan, but similar and at the same latitude. All that pink to red tint in that photo is from the high iron content of the sand and dust. As these events bring Saharan Dust across to Texas and the southwest, they not only make it hot and dusty weather for folks out west, but these events also add a lot of iron to the Gulf of Mexico.

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.

Area scientists study why Lakewood Ranch ponds have been turning brown

The Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority enlists scientists from the University of Florida to help with the "browning" ponds.

With a handful of ponds suffering different levels of "brownification" in the County Club and Lake Club villages, the Inter-District Authority has been seeking answers, including those from University of Florida scientists.

Tom Merrell, the IDA's director of operations, had previously noted the emergence of browning ponds. “We’re not really sure what’s causing it,” he said. “It’s a phenomenon that we’re seeing pop up more throughout the community.”

As a result, the IDA asked the scientists to offer some solutions.

Alongside the scientists was Michelle Atkinson, an environmental horticulture agent with the University of Florida IFAS Extension in Manatee County.

Atkinson is currently working with University of Florida researchers with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to study how efficient plants can be absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus found in stormwater that is running unabated into ponds.

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.

Sarasota Bay Watch receives aquaculture lease to raise clams for bay restoration

SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota Bay Watch Inc. recently has received approval for an underwater aquaculture lease for clam restoration and research.

This is the first lease of its type – dedicated strictly to research and restoration purposes, as opposed to the commercial ventures that the state has been approving for more than two decades.

Sarasota Bay Watch Executive Director Ronda Ryan said what sets the nonprofit’s lease on the underwater plot apart from previous leases is that all the clams will be used for waterfront restoration purposes only.

The lease agreement with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Aquaculture gives Sarasota Bay Watch the rights to raise and distribute southern hard-shell clams to improve regional water quality.

Coastal engineers fight battle of Longboat Key erosion

When it comes to making sure Longboat Key's beaches are stocked with sand, the town's work is never done. 

To that point, coastal engineers updated the Longboat Key Town Commission on June 6 on the results of the dredging project from about a year ago, as well as what's ahead for the Key's beaches. 

Public Works Director Isaac Brownman and coastal engineer Al Browder said Longboat Key’s last beach nourishment project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget, but there’s still a long-term battle to control erosion. 

Browder said that nearly a million yards of sand were dredged from Passage Key Inlet, Longboat Pass and New Pass and placed back on the beaches, and Brownman said the project came in $3.6 million under budget and took only six months instead of three years. The work, which was conducted in between April and October of 2021, was hastened by the presence of contractors being used for similar tasks by other member jurisdictions.

Browder, discussing the work that’s already been done, said that 750,000 cubic yards of sand were dredged from the Passage Key inlet and placed along 4.4 miles of the Longboat Key shoreline. Five rock groins were constructed as part of this phase of the project. All of that sand, said Browder, was taken 10-15 miles from its original dredging point by barge to a pump-out location and then moved along the beach as needed.

Bradenton to end snowbirds’ water bill loophole

BRADENTON – Snowbirds in Bradenton will no longer be able to turn off their water while they’re up north and not pay their water bill for those months, the City Council recently decided.

In its May 25 meeting, Lance Williams, the assistant director of the city’s Office of Management and Budget, told the council the unofficial policy costs the city an estimated $200,000 a year.

“Bradenton is the only agency between Tampa and Fort Myers to offer a seasonal nonbilling option,” he said.

Williams said mostly in October, between 500 and 600 seasonal residents arrive and ask for their service to be turned on. In April, they ask for service to be turned off, before leaving for their winter homes.

During the months the water is turned off, the city doesn’t generate a bill for those accounts.

That, Williams said, just isn’t fair. He quoted a recent white paper from the Florida Rural Water Association which said the practice is not recommended. “Each customer should pay their proportional share. It’s not equitable and just,” Williams said.

Longboat Key seeks path around troublesome seawalls

Pedestrian access to the beach has been compromised in areas of Longboat Key, and there doesn't seem to be a simple solution.

Longboat Key leaders remain perplexed about the best method to ensure pedestrian access to the beach due to a pair of private properties that jut out beyond the erosion control line.

The Longboat Key Town Commission heard presentations from coastal engineer Al Browder and Public Works Director Isaac Brownman Monday about the difficulties beach walkers have had navigating around seawalls at 6633 Gulf of Mexico Drive and 6541 Gulfside Road.

The presentations yielded no easy solutions.

The Town Commission can consider spending money to continually renourish the beach near those protruding properties, but state statute dictates that it cannot add a parallel walk or promenade in front of the seawall. Brownman also said he has investigated building additional public beach access points, but that effort does not appear to be feasible.

The presentation led the town commissioners to question the overall strategy for Longboat Key going forward: Does it make sense to renourish the beach if the town will be tending to private property?

Volunteers with boats needed for ‘Eyes on Seagrass’ monitoring

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The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is looking for volunteers, preferably those with boats, to help survey macroalgae and seagrass in Sarasota Bay during the last two weeks of July.

In partnership UF/IFAS Extension Program, Florida Sea Grant, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, and Sarasota and Manatee counties, the Eyes on Seagrass Program takes place twice a year in the spring and summer and helps inform the Sarasota Bay ecosystem health report card.

The survey takes about 1 hour. Training and sampling gear will be provided.

If you are interested, please contact Jay Leverone, Jay@sarasotabay.org.

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.

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

USFWS agrees to update critical habitat for Florida manatees

ST. PETERSBURG – U.S. wildlife officials have agreed to revise the critical habitat designation for Florida manatees, which have been dying in record numbers because water pollution is killing a main food source.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a court settlement made public Wednesday that it will publish a proposed revision by Sept. 12, 2024. The agreement comes in a long-running court case involving the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Save the Manatee Club.

The rule would bring enhanced federal scrutiny to projects that might affect the manatee in waterways in which the marine mammals are known to concentrate. One such area is the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast, where this winter officials successfully fed manatees tons of lettuce in an unprecedented experiment to prevent more starvation.

Last year, more than 1,100 manatees died largely from lack of food, a Florida record. This year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports 562 manatee deaths as of late May. Dozens more manatees have been rescued and are being cared for at zoos, marine facilities and aquariums around the country.

TBEP Policy Board supports federal legislation to re-list West Indian Manatee as endangered

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On May 27th, 2022, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) Policy Board expressed unanimous support for proposed federal legislation to relist the West Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus, as an endangered species (U.S. House Resolution 4946).

Approximately 1,101 manatee mortalities were reported in 2021, bringing the total statewide population to about 7,500 individuals. This recent mass mortality event has been attributed to significant losses of seagrass along Florida’s east coast – the primary food source for the manatee.

Recent seagrass losses along Florida’s southwest Gulf coast are prompting additional concerns for the long-term status of this iconic Florida species. Likewise, watercraft-related mortalities averaged 113 deaths per year from 2017-2021 and remain a pressing concern in our region. It is with these recent statistics that the TBEP Policy Board felt that additional protections are warranted for this species.

In response, the TBEP and its Policy Board have requested action by Congress, addressing their concerns to the Florida Delegation in support of H.R. 4946 to relist the manatee under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

To read the letter to the Florida Delegation, please view the link below.

Longboat Key builds funds first, then aims to construct sewer pipeline

Longboat Key's sewer line project aims to add redundancy to a system that previously had not had that luxury.

Gathering funding from a variety of sources and permission from a batch of state and federal agencies, the town of Longboat Key aims by 2024 to begin building a second underwater sewer line to link island businesses and residences to Manatee County’s mainland treatment plant.

The project, estimated to cost around $24 million, won’t be a one-and-done effort though it is designed to last decades, said Public Works Director Isaac Brownman.

Fast-tracked from a 10-year goal to the town’s five-year capital improvement plan after a mainland-side break in 2020 that spilled millions of gallons of town sewage, the project will build redundancy into a sewer system that hasn’t previously included that luxury. Under current thinking, the new two-mile pipe will take over as the primary link to Manatee County while the original pipeline is kept, monitored and maintained in reserve.

Online ‘Florida Friendly Angler’ course is now available

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), UF/IFAS Extension and Florida Sea Grant have teamed up to develop the Florida Friendly Angler course. This free online course is for both new and experienced anglers looking to educate themselves on fisheries management and up their fishing game by learning skills and practices that help ensure fishing opportunities for the future.

The course is comprised of three self-paced modules that cover environmental ethics, best fishing practices and fisheries management. These narrated presentations can be accessed any time after registration. Upon finishing the course, you will receive an electronic certificate of completion and will be mailed a Florida Friendly Angler decal by providing your contact information. Register for the course at ifas-seagrant.catalog.instructure.com/courses/florida-friendly-angler.

For additional information about the course, contact the course administrator, Savanna Barry, savanna.barry@ufl.edu or Mike Sipos, sipos624@ufl.edu.

Are you a for-hire fishing guide? Check out the Florida Friendly Fishing Guide course to gain multiple benefits for your business. Visit flseagrant.org/florida-friendly-fishing-guide-certification to register today!

Longboat Key fertilizer restrictions begin June 1st

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Residents and landscapers are reminded that the Town of Longboat Key’s Fertilizer Management Ordinance prohibits the application of fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorous between June 1 and Sept. 30.

Summer rain showers can wash fertilizers from our lawns into Sarasota Bay and Gulf waters. Stormwater runoff carrying the nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers can cause harmful algal blooms, impacting aquatic life.

That is why the Town of Longboat Key prohibits the use of fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorus during the Summer rainy season, and why at least 50 percent slow-release fertilizer is required during the rest of the year. In addition, all applicators of fertilizer within the Town, other than private homeowners on their own property, are required to abide by and have successfully completed an approved best management practices training program.

During the SUMMER: June 1 - September 30

  • Say no to nitrogen. Longboat Key prohibits the use of any fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus from June 1 through September 30.
  • Green up with iron. Iron products with micro-nutrients keep lawns green through summer.
  • Get better dirt. Add compost to improve your soil and give your garden a boost.
  • Use Florida-friendly plants. Plants adapted to Florida need less fertilizer, water, pesticides and overall care.
  • Keep the clippings. Leave grass clippings on your lawn. Mow high for health. Mowing short stresses grass and makes it vulnerable to disease, pests and drought.

During the WINTER/SPRING: October 1 - May 31

  • Watch the weather. Rainstorms don't help fertilizers soak in, they wash fertilizers away.
  • Go slow by half. Longboat Key requires at least 50 percent slow-release nitrogen in lawn or landscape fertilizers.
  • Blue not green. Keep fertilizer at least 10 feet away from waterways.
  • Be on your guard. Use a spreader with a deflector shield or edge guard to spread fertilizer. Test your turf. If the problem is a pH imbalance, pest invasion or disease, then fertilizer is not going to help.

The Town of Longboat Key is one of more than 90 Florida communities that have Summertime fertilizer restrictions. Maintaining healthy waters helps to maintain the Town’s goals of enhancing the quality of life and fostering civic pride for its residents and visitors.

Tampa Bay area student researchers return from studying the Gulf of Mexico’s health

The project offers underrepresented students the opportunity to document climate change and the lingering BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacts from 2010.

Tampa Bay area researchers and college students recently returned ashore after an eight-day excursion collecting data from the Gulf of Mexico.

They were aboard the Research Vessel Weatherbird II, a boat equipped with advanced laboratories and sensor technology.

With each working three days on the water, about 20 students from Eckerd College and the University of South Florida collected samples from the sea floor and the water column from May 14-21.

They are part of the "Scientist at Sea Program," a collaboration among the colleges, Tampa Bay Watch and the U.S. Geological Survey. The project offers underrepresented students the opportunity to document climate change and the lingering BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacts from 2010.

The scientists and students used a six-foot tall cylindrical cage that contained 12 or so bottles, which were triggered to close, collecting sediments from the seafloor. Below that, an instrument containing multiple sensors measured different things, such as temperature, salinity, and oxygen.

The results could possibly be released later this year, after being analyzed by summer interns and fall semester students. But Patrick Schwing, one of two co-principal investigators from Eckerd College, noted some obvious changes while on the water.