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

Water-Related News

Holmes Beach exploring $308K algae harvester purchase

The city of Holmes Beach has found an algae harvester vessel that matches its specifications.

However, finding money to fund the vessel’s price tag is another matter.

City commissioners reached a consensus May 14, directing city engineer and public works superintendent Sage Kamiya to bring back a finalized version of a proposed contract with Wisconsin-based Aquarius Systems to purchase a $308,000 algae harvester vessel.

The city’s clean water committee has pushed since shortly after its creation in 2021 for the purchase of a harvester vessel that can dispose of algal mats and fish kills in the municipality’s waterways. Removing decaying material can reduce foul odors and the water’s nitrogen load.

Palma Sola Bay bacteria linked to horses

Water quality testing links horses to pollution in north Palma Sola Bay.

Testing by the nonprofit environmental monitoring group Suncoast Waterkeeper has showed high levels of enterococci bacteria in north Palma Sola Bay and now DNA testing links the bacteria to horse waste.

Palma Sola Bay is an embayment in west Manatee that flows into Anna Maria Sound and provides sanctuary for manatees, dolphins, wading birds, fish and other wildlife, as well as serves as a recreation area.

Abbey Tyrna, Suncoast Waterkeeper executive director, discussed the group’s findings and efforts in an interview with The Islander May 15.

“Our most recent (DNA) test was April 8 in the evening during a low tide,” Tyrna said. “We collected water and sediment from where we sample weekly.”

The Suncoast Waterkeeper newsletter explains the group’s findings: “The levels we see indicate that for most of the year, Palma Sola Bay, north of the causeway, is unsafe for swimming. Suncoast Waterkeeper has studied DNA in Palma Sola Bay water for over two years to find the source of the fecal indicator bacteria.

Applications now being accepted for FY25 stormwater education funding

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Deadline: 5 p.m., July 16th, 2024

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is now accepting applications for the FY 2025 Stormwater Outreach and Education Funding opportunity. With financial support from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), this program aims to further public involvement, education, and outreach efforts to improve the quality of stormwater runoff in the Tampa Bay Region. Projects develop and implement creative stormwater outreach initiatives and a variety of educational materials to garner public support and stewardship.

This year’s program funding totals $90,000 with individual award ceilings set at $15,000. To review the FY 2025 Notice of Funding, visit: Stormwater Outreach & Education Funding for Tampa Bay Region – TBRPC. Projects must be located in Pinellas, Hillsborough, or Pasco Counties. Complete project applications must be submitted electronically to alana@tbrpc.org by 5pm on July 16, 2024. Applicants will also be required to present their proposals to the Stormwater Public Education and Outreach Committee on July 23, 2024, at 9:30 AM. The awards will be announced in August 2024.

US Circuit Court of Appeals nixes Florida’s request for a stay in a wetlands permitting fight

Rejecting arguments by Florida and business groups, an appeals court Monday refused to put on hold a U.S. district judge’s ruling in a battle about permitting authority for projects that affect wetlands.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued an order that said Florida “has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay” while an appeal of U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss’ ruling plays out. The order did not provide further explanation.

The case, which is closely watched by business and environmental groups, stems from a 2020 decision by the federal government to shift permitting authority to the state for projects that affect wetlands. Moss in February ruled that actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in approving the shift violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

Register now for June 11th TBEP Mini-Grant webinar and Q&A

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Thinking about applying? Register now for the June 11th webinar and Q&A session!

Bay Mini-Grants are competitive awards that fund environmental restoration and education projects in the Tampa Bay watershed with a focus on community-led initiatives. The maximum award is $5,000 per project. Schools, businesses, nonprofits, and many other organizations are eligible to apply.

  • Deadline: Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. on September 13, 2024.
  • More Information: Application materials and details can be found at www.tbep.org/bay-mini-grants
  • Webinar: Want to learn more about Bay Mini-Grants, get tips for developing a strong application, and ask questions? Join TBEP for a webinar on June 11 at 5:30 p.m.

Register for Webinar

Manatee County man drops wetlands lawsuit, as law says challenger must pay winner’s legal fees

Friends of the Everglades described the law as a "death knell for smart growth in Florida," and warned "it will effectively end citizen challenges to comprehensive plan amendments."

Despite vocal opposition from members of the community and environmental scientists, the Manatee County commission voted last year to reduce the required size of buffer zones between developed areas and wetlands.

Former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash, who is publisher of the Bradenton Times, said developers were the impetus for the rollback, and the alteration of the county’s comprehensive plan was not in the best interest of the public.

He planned to file a legal challenge with an administrative law judge, but had to abandon it due to a 2023 law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis which said anyone who challenges a county’s comprehensive plan in court would have to pay the legal fees of the prevailing party.

The sponsor of that bill, known as SB 540, St. Petersburg Republican Senator Nick DiCeglie, said it was meant to “level the playing” field between developers and local governments and that those suing should have “skin in the game.”

For McClash, it meant the cost to proceed with the challenge could be on the order of $250,000, according to his own estimates.

Caloosahatchee River discharges and the duration of red tide events

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From Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Director Dave Tomasko:

Earlier this week, I received notification that a manuscript my co-authors and I produced was accepted for publication in the upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal “Florida Scientist”. The title of the paper is “An evaluation of the relationships between the duration of red tide (Karenia brevis) blooms and watershed nitrogen loads in Southwest Florida (USA)”. My four co-authors include Lenny Landau and Steve Suau (both highly talented and creative local engineers), Dr. Miles Medina (a brilliant statistician) and Jennifer Hecker, the Director of the Coastal and Heartland Estuary Program.

A few years ago, there was a bit more controversy regarding what role – if any – humans have on red tides. While that may have been an appropriate view a few years ago, anyone who currently thinks that humans don’t play a role in red tide events either isn’t familiar with recent studies or is just being stubborn for some reason. Ten or twenty years ago, it was appropriate to be skeptical of such a link, but not over the past few years.

For example, the SBEP’s Technical Library includes this paper, which showed a relationship between the intensification of red tide events and Caloosahatchee River loads, as well as evidence that a substantial amount of nitrogen loads out of the Caloosahatchee can be traced back to nitrogen loads coming into Lake O from the north.

Also in our technical library is this paper, which showed a link between the red tide event in middle Tampa Bay in 2021 and nitrogen loads associated with the releases from the Piney Point facility back in 2021.

So what was unusual about this recent study? Well, we wanted to see if we could develop a robust, predictable and quantifiable relationship between human activities and the duration of red tide events.

Florida's outdated urban drainage systems cause more flooding, but there' a natural solution

In the 1900s, swamps and low-lying areas were drained to create more space for development and farming.

Florida has a lot of altered drainage networks, like ditches and canals, but at a recent resiliency summit in Clearwater, it became clear that these are increasingly becoming obsolete and can actually make flooding worse.

There are 80,000 linear miles of stream channels in Florida, and almost two-thirds of those are ditches and canals.

These water systems were originally put in to drain parts of the state for development.

But John Kiefer, an environmental engineer with Black & Veatch who moderated a panel discussion on the subject at the Regional Resiliency Summit, said these are not stable.

"They require perennial maintenance, otherwise they erode — sometimes catastrophically, sometimes chronically," Kiefer told the audience in one of the breakout rooms at the Hilton Clearwater Beach.

He said the eroding sediment could plug up openings, compounding the flooding that's already increasing from climate change.

Along with sea level rise, warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate from the land and oceans, creating more frequent and heavier rain events.

Kiefer also said altering the landscape causes problems for wildlife, so some fish don't have access to proper water bodies, for instance.

"So, what is the cure? Well, the cure can follow a gradient from near to natural solutions to highly engineered ones," Kiefer said.

These systems can be re-patterned so they process water and sediment more naturally.

Take Sarasota County's Phillippi Creek Watershed, for example.

Kiefer said 95 of the 100 miles of canals there are eligible for this kind of restoration, but a project like this could cost $2 million per mile.

2025 Bay Mini-Grant applications now being accepted

TBEP logo

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program is now accepting Bay Mini-Grant applications for 2025 projects!

Bay Mini-Grants are competitive awards that fund environmental restoration and education projects in the Tampa Bay watershed with a focus on community-led initiatives. The maximum award is $5,000 per project. Schools, businesses, nonprofits, and many other organizations are eligible to apply.

  • Deadline: Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. on September 13, 2024.
  • More Information: Application materials and details can be found at www.tbep.org/bay-mini-grants
  • Webinar: Want to learn more about Bay Mini-Grants, get tips for developing a strong application, and ask questions? Join TBEP for a webinar on June 11 at 5:30 p.m.

Register for Webinar

Governor announces investments in Wildlife Corridor, red tide mitigation

For the second day in a row, DeSantis focused on environmental investments.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation to boost red tide research and direct funding toward expanding Florida’s Wildlife Corridor.

“With the investments we’re getting, we’re on our way to linking these areas so that we can promote safe and stabilized species movements,” DeSantis said.

The Governor signed the legislation in Naples, a region Senate President Kathleen Passidomo represents. Environmental investments had been chief priorities for Passidomo during the past two Legislative Sessions.

DeSantis at the event stressed the need to preserve Florida’s environment for future generations to enjoy. The announcements Tuesday came a day after DeSantis also promised a $1.5 billion investment in Everglades restoration and other water improvement projects.

In fighting red tide algal blooms, DeSantis signed mitigation legislation (HB 1565) extending a partnership between the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and More Marine Laboratory in Sarasota to study prevention and mitigation technologies.