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

Water-Related News

Manatee County public beaches closed

County and municipal officials today announced that the beaches of Anna Maria Island will close tomorrow, March 20 at 6 a.m. Beach closure signs and barricades will alert drivers to the closure.

"Each day as our local situation has changed and new advisories have been sent, Manatee County residents have heeded warnings and taken official advice seriously," said County Administrator Cheri Coryea. "We're hoping for more of the same with our beach announcement. Parking lots will be closed and signs placed to alert drivers and we expect that most people will heed that advice."

Manatee County lifeguards will remain on duty from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, to ensure the safety of those who disregard the closure. A double red flag, indicating no swimming, will fly from lifeguard stands.

Coryea said the decision was made to close beaches with careful input from the mayors on Anna Maria Island and after speaking with Sarasota County officials in order to continue the close coordination of the two counties during the coronavirus outbreak.

"This is not a step we take lightly to close our beaches, but together with the advice of the public health officials we believe it is a step that's in the public's best interest," Coryea said. "Our primary concern is the health and safety of our residents and visitors and the people they return home to. The leadership of the Island cities of Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, the City of Anna Maria and the Town of Longboat Key collectively brainstormed this decision and will have the authority to manage the impacts in their community."

Administrator Coryea, along with Manatee Sheriff Rick Wells, Department of Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Bencie, and Public Safety Director Jacob Saur will provide more details on the local response during a press conference tomorrow, March 20 at 2 p.m. The press conference will be held in the Honorable Patricia M. Glass Chambers of the County Administration Building, 1112 Manatee Ave. West, Bradenton.

Manatee County Public Safety Director Jacob Saur made the announcement with Sarasota County officials today at a 3 p.m. press conference at the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center. Sarasota public beaches will close Saturday, March 21 at 6 a.m.

Manatee County Code Enforcement Officers will assist the Island communities enforcing the beach closure.

The County-owned Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe will remain open but the Coquina Beach Cafe will be closed during beach closures. The Anna Maria Island Trolley will continue to operate.

For a full list of closures and cancellations, visit www.mymanatee.org/coronavirus

El NiƱo may skip hurricane season: what it means for Florida

The 2019 hurricane season was the fourth consecutive season with above normal storm activity. With early signs pointing to no El Niño this year, we may see the trend continue.

Early climate signals are raising red flags that El Niño will be a no-show this hurricane season, a bad sign for storm-weary states that have suffered four consecutive years of above normal activity.

Hurricanes are a low priority with coronavirus turning the world upside down, but June 1 will come regardless of what the virus is doing.

Meteorologists acknowledge March is a tricky time for predictions with Earth in the throes of seasonal metamorphosis, but the clues almost all point to a neutral or La Niña pattern come summer.

The two patterns, both recurring phases of the El Niño -Southern Oscillation cycle, are more accommodating to Atlantic tropical cyclones than the cutting western gales that shred hurricanes during an El Niño event.

February forecast models were leaning against an El Niño for the 2020 hurricane season. That was reinforced Mar. 5 with updates in the Euro (ECMWF) and the American Global Forecast System (GFS) showing a cooling over the next several months in the equatorial Pacific more consistent with a neutral or La Niña pattern.

Don’t flush disinfectant wipes!

Wipes can cause clogs in wastewater pipes and pumps

Disposable disinfectant wipes are being bought and used to help stem the spread of coronavirus.

Hillsborough County Public Utilities Department supports the use of disposable disinfectant wipes, but reminds residents not to flush wipes.

Wipes need to be thrown out in the garbage after they are used. The package might say they are "flushable," but that is not accurate.

If large number of wipes gets into the wastewater pipes, it can create problems for everybody.

The wipes can clog pipes, and it can cause the pumping stations to fail. If the pipes or pumping stations are blocked, the wastewater can overflow, causing disruption at homes, businesses, and potentially impacting the environment.

It can also be a problem at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. While the Wastewater Treatment Plant has equipment to remove the wipes, an excessive number of wipes in the system can damage the equipment, making it difficult to get routine work done.

Along with wipes, many people will use paper towels to clean and disinfect countertops, tables, and desks at homes and offices. Like wipes, paper towels can't be flushed because they can clog pipes and pumps. They need to be discarded in the trash.

Other items not to flush:

  • Paper towels
  • Dental floss
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Cotton swabs
  • Hair
  • Bandages
  • Medications
  • Cat litter

The rule of thumb: If isn't toilet paper, it shouldn't be flushed.

For more information, visit Don't Flush It.

Good advice no matter where you live!

Legislature approves bill creating new Aquatic Preserve

TALLAHASSEE – On Wednesday, the Florida Legislature approved a bill that would provide protections to the largest seagrass bed in the Gulf of Mexico.

House Bill 1061 by Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo of Lecanto passed overwhelmingly to create the first aquatic preserve in 32 years, including the coastlines of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties.

The news comes with excitement for Capt. William Toney, a fourth-generation fishing guide in Citrus County.

"This aquatic preserve will protect us and hopefully, sustain our way of living and keep our rivers safe clean and everything, from if there is any issues with pollution," he states. "It's being proactive, is what it is."

Seagrass helps stabilize the sea floor, filters pollution and serves as habitat for fish species.

Some local governments did express concern about added bureaucracy for the state protections, but the measure received unanimous support in the Senate and is now on the governor's desk.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, commercially fished seagrass-dependent species and eco-tourism in the region generate around $600 million a year for the local economy, and support more than 10,000 jobs.

Heading to an event? Verify its status first!

COVID-19 is prompting event cancellations. Know before you go.

Our Water Atlas event calendar is provided as a convenience to Atlas users and contains notices of volunteer opportunities, public meetings, and other water-related happenings hosted by our Water Atlas sponsors and their partner organizations. To safeguard the community, some organizations have been cancelling events, especially those that are anticipated to draw large crowds.

We'll update the Water Atlas calendar as we learn of cancellations and postponements, but be sure to check with the event sponsor to find out whether an event is still going on as planned before you head out the door!

Bill aimed at battling algae blooms heads to governor

Supporters call it the Clean Waterways Act, but many environmentalists doubt it will provide the clean-up needed.

TALLAHASSEE — Legislation aimed at easing the state’s wide-ranging water problems by tightening oversight of runoff from farms, urban development and Florida’s 2.7 million septic tanks was approved Wednesday by the House.

The House’s 118-0 vote follows similar 39-0 approval last week in the Senate. The measure now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who pushed for the changes and is expected to sign it into law.

“This is the most important thing we’ve done for water in this state in 10 years,” said Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, a sponsor of the legislation (SB 712), which supporters call the Clean Waterways Act.

The legislation changes how the state regulates everything from septic tanks to city wastewater systems and city and county storm-water management. But many environmental organizations say the regulatory changes lack muscle.

The Sierra Club, Florida Springs Council and Florida Waterkeepers are among those pointing to problems with the legislation, saying it will not achieve water quality goals for the many state waterways already damaged.

The organizations called it the, “policy equivalent of slapping a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. It may not hurt, but it won’t really help.”

State officials, though, have defended the measure with superlatives.

Public construction in Florida could require sea level study

TALLAHASSEE — Public construction projects in Florida’s coastal areas could soon require a study on how sea level could affect them, under a bill sent to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday.

The bill unanimously passed by the House would require a sea level study before public construction projects using state money can begin in coastal zones.

“Seventy-five percent of our constituents live in coastal counties and it is not lost on any of us that there’s a very delicate relationship between our communities and the environment,” said Republican Rep. Vance Aloupis, who sponsored the legislation. “This is a first step, but I think this is a first step that will allow our state to lead the nation on environmental policy.”

Florida is one of, if not the most, vulnerable states to sea level rise. The state has about 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometers) of coastline and much of the state has a low elevation.

New research shows mangrove conservation can pay for itself in flood protection

The natural coastal defenses provided by mangrove forests reduce annual flooding significantly in critical hotspots around the world. Without mangroves, flood damages would increase by more than $65 billion annually, and 15 million more people would be flooded, according to a new study published March 10 in Scientific Reports.

"Mangroves provide incredibly effective natural defenses, reducing flood risk and damages," said Pelayo Menéndez, a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz and first author of the paper.

Climate change is increasing the risk of coastal flooding through its effects on sea level rise and the intensity of hurricanes. According to the study's authors, conservation and restoration of natural defenses such as mangroves offers cost-effective ways to mitigate and adapt to these changes.

The researchers provided high-resolution estimates of the economic value of mangrove forests for flood risk reduction across more than 700,000 kilometers of coastlines worldwide. They combined engineering and economic models to provide the best analyses of coastal flood risk and mangrove benefits. Their results show when, where, and how mangroves reduce flooding, and they identified innovative ways to fund mangrove protection using economic incentives, insurance, and climate risk financing.