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

Water-Related News

TBEP announces Tampa Bay water quality test results

Bay Managers Continue to Observe Concerning Trends in Old Tampa Bay

  • The Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) reports on water quality annually to improve management of the bay;
  • Summertime algae blooms were again observed in Old Tampa Bay;
  • Data collection was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in missing data for the months of April and May; and,
  • Water quality in all other bay segments remained favorable for seagrass growth, a key indicator of the bay’s health.

For the sixth consecutive year, Old Tampa Bay has exceeded chlorophyll-a targets. Chlorophyll-a is a measure of microscopic algae in the water column that can contribute to shading and die-offs of seagrasses, a key indicator of water quality health. Bay managers have linked elevated chlorophyll-a levels to a harmful algal bloom of Pyrodinium bahamense. The summertime recurrence of this alga comes despite numerous investments by local partners to reduce nitrogen pollution.

Pyrodinium has puzzled those charged with protecting and restoring Tampa Bay for at least a decade, because it has not responded to traditional pollution control measures and favors the Old Tampa Bay segment. Cary Lopez, Assistant Research Scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and her team have been conducting research to help bay managers understand what actions can be taken to reduce the severity of blooms in the future. Lopez describes the complex factors driving blooms as “the balance of cellular growth and cellular loss...too much growth, you’re going to have a build up of biomass that results in higher chlorophyll in Old Tampa Bay.” Her research has inspired bay managers to look at ways oysters and clams may be used to increase cellular loss through filter feeding.

The COVID-19 pandemic also caused challenges for bay managers in 2020. Scientists were unable to collect field measurements during the months of April and May, when water clarity is typically better. As a result, the yearly water quality scorecard prepared by the TBEP presents water quality trends without data from those months.

The scorecard (link below) shows that all other areas of Tampa Bay had sufficient water clarity to allow sunlight to penetrate to the bay bottom and support the growth of underwater seagrasses. Improving water quality throughout the bay has has been a hallmark achievement of the TBEP, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. TBEP and its partners are committed to additional work in Old Tampa Bay to get this portion of Tampa Bay back on track.

FBI issues cybersecurity outline for water treatment plants

ST. ALBANS, VERMONT — A four-page joint advisory from the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the EPA and Multi-State Center for Internet Security has been circulated among Vermont officials outlining how to avoid cyberattacks.

The document comes two weeks after a cyberattack on a drinking water system that serves 15,000 people outside of Tampa, Florida, was infiltrated. The attackers attempted to increase the amount of lye from 100 parts to 11,000 parts per million.

The document recommends following “Cyber Hygiene” and recommends steps such as keeping software up-to-date, implementing “independent cyber-physical safety systems,” and using randomized alphanumeric passwords, the St. Albans Messenger reported.

Florida celebrates sea level rise planning tool after years ‘behind the curve’

A recent law requires builders to think about climate change for some publicly funded projects.

One year after the Florida Legislature passed a bill considered its first direct confrontation of climate change in years, the state is moving closer to making the policy’s promises a reality.

The Department of Environmental Protection is crafting a rule that will lay out a standard for considering sea level rise before starting construction on some publicly funded projects along the coast. It is supposed to take effect July 1, and agency officials said this week they aim to hone a draft version by April 1.

“The whole idea is to raise the floor, and the floor on planning was absolutely nothing,” said José Javier Rodríguez, a former state senator from Miami who pushed the original legislation.

Department of Environmental Protection secretary Noah Valenstein said in a meeting last month that the measure will mark the first time Florida sends “a uniform signal across the state of what sea level rise projections should be used over what time periods.”

The rule will require Sea Level Impact Projection (or SLIP) studies to be finished before builders break ground on projects that receive state funding and fall in specific areas especially vulnerable to flooding near the shore. It will cover structures like houses, parking garages, piers, water treatment plants and bridges, but not smaller items like gazebos and beach walkovers, or seawalls and breakwaters meant to combat erosion.

Church plans to begin construction to resolve drainage dispute

It’s going to take several more weeks to find resolution to a drainage dispute between Christ Church of Longboat Key and its next-door neighbor.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District has provided Christ Church notice of a Feb. 26 deadline to complete construction on a redesigned pump system for stormwater runoff. However, SFWMD public information officer Susanna Martinez Tarokh said it will take about six weeks for the pump to arrive.

“The pump will not be available for installation prior to the notice deadline,” Tarokh wrote in an email. “Christ Church indicated they will start construction prior to Feb. 26 to prepare the site for the pump system.”

The preparation includes removing trees, curbing and crushed shell from the bioswale adjacent to the property owned by Ross Toussaint, who lives on General Harris Street.

Longboat Key leaders set to decide on how to handle sewage break penalties

Longboat Key leaders are set to hold another private meeting this month to discuss how to address the repercussions from the town’s June 2020 mainland sewage line break and spill of millions of gallons of effluent.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection seeks $188,382 in civil penalties and costs from the town, though that figure has been reduced from the initial proposal of $242,652.50.

“I don’t think there’s any one specific reason that I could give you,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said about the state's reduction. “It’s just been part of our back and forth with the state.”

Harmer said the lawyers on both sides have negotiated the language of the proposed consent order. He also mentioned the formula the FDEP uses to determine penalties, based on the size of the spill. FDEP initially estimated the spill at 17 million gallons, though a town-hired consultant delivered a report estimating the spill, which took place about 400 feet from the shores of Sarasota Bay between June 17-30, at 14.7 million.

Longboat Key town commissioners can also choose to offset the penalty by implementing an in-kind environmental project worth at least $281,073, subject to FDEP approval.

Good times roll for outdoor exploring at Camp Bayou

Habitat restoration, expanded hours worthy of celebrating

It may not be New Orleans, but locals longing for Bayou Country this week of Mardi Gras can venture to Hillsborough County's Camp Bayou Nature Preserve & Outdoor Learning Center.

The 160-acre site along the Little Manatee River was acquired under the Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP) in 1990. It is part of a system of connected conservation lands, including Little Manatee River State Park, that protect habitat along the banks of the Little Manatee River.

Don't let the name fool you: There's no camping at Camp Bayou, but it's a great place to spend a day paddling, bird watching, hiking, and enjoying nature.

Here's what's new with Camp Bayou:

  • The former location at the end of 24th Street that provided river access daily for kayak and canoe launching is now closed for habitat restoration.
  • The addition of on-site County staff Monday through Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the expansion of nature center hours from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, means the kayak and canoe launch inside the nature center compound is now open seven days a week so visitors can continue to enjoy daily river access.
  • In addition to habitat restoration, the County's Conservation & Environmental Lands Management staff will conduct land management activities such as invasive plant removal.

Other highlights of Camp Bayou worthy of exploring are the Outdoor Learning Center and Paleo Preserve Fossil Museum.

The Outdoor Learning Center:

  • Offers a variety of field trip and nature education programs, including a monthly guided paddle on the Little Manatee River.
  • Is operated by volunteers and supported by local donors.
  • Has a wonderful collection of natural history materials and many native artifacts.
  • Volunteers are knowledgeable about the natural and human history of the area.

The Paleo Preserve Fossil Museum:

Provides an amazing glimpse into Florida's long-ago past through a collection of more than 20,000 fossils uncovered from the Leisey Shell Pit in Ruskin.Specimens include mastodon, saber-toothed cat, bear, giant crocodile, and many more, some of which lived almost 2 million years ago in a very different Florida.

Florida DEP to communities: Please assess your sea-level rise risk

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says local governments need to know their risk for sea-level rise. Some agencies are already making their own projections. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact estimates by 2040; seas will rise in some South Florida communities by more than three feet.

"We've been challenged with issues of sea-level rise for more than a decade. It's just been a very hot topic the last 15 or so years," says Jennifer Jurado. She's Broward County's Chief Resiliency Officer and represented the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact during a meeting today with lawmakers.

Randy Deshazo is Director of Planning and Research at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. He says the area has seen 8 inches of sea-level rise since 1946.

"The projections that we are using assume sea-level rise about 2.5 feet by 2045 up to 3.5 feet by 2060; this puts a lot of our critical infrastructure under threat," Deshazo says.

Noah Valenstein heads the state's Department of Environmental Protection. He says the governor's proposed Resilient Florida Program earmarks funds to help address those concerns.

Longboat Key expects to save about $8.7 million on beach projects

Boating and beach activities are closed east of the Longboat Pass Bridge on the north end of Longboat Key as work proceeds on an emergency dredging project on Canal 1A.

The town awarded the Canal 1A bid to Duncan Seawall Dock and Boat Lift, LLC for $81,755, according to Longboat Key town projects manager Charlie Mopps. Work began Jan. 25.

“[Duncan] had some equipment problems last week. Like they had a track that broke, so they’re bringing in a track, fixing it on the beach,” Mopps said. “They got it fixed.”

Canal 1A emergency dredging began on Jan. 25. Boating and beach activities east of Longboat Pass Bridge are closed for another week or so.

Mopps said he expects Duncan to finish the emergency dredging in about a week despite the equipment problems and gusty winds.

The area west of Longboat Pass Bridge remains open for beachgoers and boaters.

The canal project is designed to reopen passage to watercraft under the bridge and into the lagoon east of the gulfside beach. Shoaling over the last few years has rendered the canal virtually impassable for properties along North Shore Road.

Manatee County invites public input to proposed impact fee changes

Manatee County is looking for public input over the next month for a new set of proposed impact fees, a one-time charge the County imposes on new development to pay costs of providing public services to the new development.

Manatee County collects impact fees to pay for new roads (multimodal transportation), parks and natural resources, law enforcement and public safety equipment and libraries. Impact fees are restricted to funding growth-related capital improvements and may not be used for replacing infrastructure, maintenance, or operations.

A draft copy of the Manatee County Impact Fee Update Study can be viewed at www.mymanatee.org/impactfees The County's current impact fee schedule and the study those fees are based on from 2015 can also be found on the impact fee website.

The Florida Impact Fee Act and Manatee County’s Land Development Code require the county impact fee administrator to recommend whether any changes should be made to the Impact Fee Schedule. The Impact Fees Act also requires that impact fees be "based on the most recent and localized data and to be legally defensible, impact fees must be supported by studies and analysis that meet the standards of the case law and the Florida Impact Fee Act."

A Manatee County consultant recently completed a local impact fee study documenting the data and formulas used to calculate a new set of proposed impact fees.

"As part of the update study process, we are offering the public an opportunity to review the results of the technical study, provide feedback, and ask questions," said Nicole Knapp, Manatee County Impact Fee Administrator.

Manatee County will hold an online public comment period from Feb. 5 through March 8. After the public comment period, the proposed impact fee schedule will be discussed by both the Planning Commission and County Commission later this spring.

Public comment or questions can be sent emailed to Nicole.knapp@mymanatee.org or sent to Nicole Knapp, Impact Fee Administrator, PO Box 1000, Bradenton, FL 34206 or call her at (941) 748-4501, ext. 7824.