Water-Related News

Finally, some good red tide news. But not everyone is so lucky

There’s good news and bad news, depending on where you live.

The bloom of red tide that had lingered on the Gulf Coast over the past few months has recently honed a laser focus on Charlotte and Lee counties, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s report released Friday.

There was no presence of the Karenia brevis organism in water samples taken off Manatee County’s shores this week. Sarasota County shared that fortune except for a “very low” reading at Venice South Jetty, meaning that there were between 1,000 and 10,000 K. brevis cells per liter of water. A “very low” result can mean the possibility of respiratory irritation and can close shellfish harvesting at more than 5,000 cells per liter.

Medium concentrations, which denotes the presence of 100,000 to 1 million cells per liter, were recorded at Sandfly Key and Bull Key in Charlotte County, and in several locations in Lee County from Cayo Pelau to Buck Key. A high concentration was found in a water sample at Jug Creek Point, according to the report.

University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, which contributes to red tide forecasts, predicts a stronger bloom presence in Charlotte County.

Mote Marine Laboratory’s daily beach report collects data on 29 beaches from Caladesi Island to Marco Island. On Friday, the only location that reported slight respiratory irritation was Manasota Beach in Venice. FWC also received reports of slight respiratory irritation in Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

Mote and Secoora to co-host public forum: Eyes on the Ocean

The public is invited to the forum “Eyes on the Ocean: Why monitoring the sea makes your life better” at 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Jan. 26 at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. This forum is being held in conjunction with an upcoming Board Meeting for the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA).

SECOORA is one of 11 regional coastal observing systems that comprise the NOAA-led United States Integrated Ocean Observing System (U.S. IOOS).

“IOOS is essentially a weather service for the coastal oceans and Great Lakes, providing the ability to ‘see’ what is happening both above and below the surface,” said Debra Hernandez, Executive Director of SECOORA. “With this information we are able to create tools that support human populations, coastal economies and a healthy, sustainable environment.”

Attendees will learn more about why integrated, regional ocean observing systems, such as SECOORA, are critically important to improve weather forecasts, monitor climate change, understand marine resource dynamics, promote ecosystem and human health, promote maritime and public safety, and enable sustained use of ocean and natural resources.

A panel discussion with industry professionals and Mote scientists will illustrate the value of ocean observations to the economy, public safety and quality of life.

“Our dynamic group of panelists will provide a well-rounded discussion on how observing systems assist them in the vital work they are conducting and how ocean observing directly impacts our local community,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Board Chairman of SECOORA. “Attendees will also hear more about how the community as a whole could benefit from advances in these types of technologies.”

Florida Forever bill heads to state Senate floor with amendment banning overhead costs

A bill seeking $100 million for Florida Forever is headed to the Senate floor with an amendment that prohibits the state from spending the money on general operations.

The state Senate budget committee passed Senate Bill 370 Thursday, the same day its chairman filed the amendment to protect the funding he seeks in the bill he filed in September.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, said he wants to make sure the state doesn't continue to spend money reserved for environmental land preservation on certain overhead costs. The amendment specifically prohibits providing the appropriation to:

  • Executive direction and support services, and technology and information services within the Department of Environmental Protection
  • Executive direction and support services, and technology services within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Executive direction and administrative support services within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Executive direction and support services within the Department of State
  • Florida, Georgia water war reaches nation's highest court

    A decades-long “water war” is now before the nation’s highest court – pitting Georgia’s use of water to supply its multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry and the booming Atlanta area, against the Sunshine State’s need for fresh water to revive its oyster business.

    The case, still sitting with the Supreme Court, is centered around the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. These freshwater sources start in Georgia, then join together and form the Apalachicola River near the Florida border, which flows into Apalachicola Bay.

    There lies what once was a thriving oyster market. A decade ago farmers could harvest nearly 20, 60-pound bags of oysters on any given day in the bay of brackish water, according to Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire. Today, he says farmers struggle to bring home one to three bags because the salinity is too high.

    Research: Oxygen Levels Continue Dropping In World's Waters

    Scientists say that climate change is having an effect on the levels of the world’s oceans.

    But it’s also apparently affecting the oxygen levels throughout the oceans, as well as our coastal waters including the Gulf of Mexico.

    That’s according to a study published in the Jan. 4 issue of Science by a team of scientists from the Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE), a working group created by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

    One of the group’s members is Brad Seibel, a professor of biological oceanography at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. He talked to University Beat about what they’ve discovered so far:

    There’s two processes at work here – and mankind may be to blame for both.

    Bradenton Beach’s sewer line dispute with county may get settled

    The Bradenton Beach City Commission will have the next say in a legal dispute between the municipality and Manatee County regarding access to a sewage pipeline.

    Resolving that dispute depends on what the commission decides regarding a 20-foot wide strip of ground that is part of a street that appears on a 1924 map but was never built.

    Since 1971, the county has provided wastewater service to the city at the southern end of Anna Maria Island.

    In August, the county filed a lawsuit against the city and property owners Shawn Kaleta, BB Bayfront LLC and 114 11th Street LLC regarding a sewage pipeline that serves the area south of 11th Street to Longboat Pass.

    The county contends that, in 2001, the city improperly vacated an unplatted street named Bay Shore Drive.

    The three defendants with properties in the 100 block of 11th Street seek city permits to construct pools and pool decks at least partially on that vacated strip.

    The county contends the construction would interfere with a 40-year-old sewer line buried 10 feet deep within the former easement. Its lawsuit claims the defendants have failed to propose pool and pool deck design plans “that will not impair” the county’s “ability to protect, operate and maintain the existing sewer line.”

    District asks homeowners to "Skip A Week" of irrigation this winter

    The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents who irrigate their lawns to “Skip a Week” or more of watering during the cooler months of January and February.

    According to research by the University of Florida, grass doesn’t need to be watered as often during the cooler months. One-half to three-quarters of an inch of water every 10–14 days is sufficient. In fact, if your lawn has received any significant rainfall, then you can turn off your irrigation system and operate it manually as needed.

    You can determine when your grass needs water when:
    • Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on at least one-third of your yard.
    • Grass blades appear blue-gray.
    • Grass blades do not spring back, leaving footprints on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it.

    Watering only every other week at most during the winter will help conserve drinking water supplies that the public needs for critical uses during the dry season.

    For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/SkipAWeek.

    Rick Scott and Trump administration strike deal: No drilling off Florida coast

    A hastily arranged airport rendezvous Tuesday ended with an announcement from President Donald Trump’s administration that the state of Florida is “off the table” for new offshore oil drilling, a declaration that brought both relief and protests of election-year politics.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at the airport in Tallahassee Tuesday afternoon. Both men emerged 20 minutes later to face waiting reporters, who had an hour’s notice of the meeting.

    “As a result of our interest in making sure that there’s no drilling here, Florida will be taken off the table,” Scott said.

    Zinke said the decision was a culmination of multiple meetings between Scott and Trump administration officials.

    “Florida is obviously unique,” Zinke said. “For Floridians, we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, and clearly the governor has expressed that it’s important.”

    High-risk underground fuel tanks in Florida await cleanup as state spends millions on easy fixes

    Scattered across Florida are 19,000 underground petroleum storage tanks that are no longer in use and may be leaking into the aquifer, the state’s drinking water supply.

    State records show that 738 of them are in Pinellas County, 792 in Hillsborough, 101 in Pasco and 61 in Hernando.

    Most people who live near them don’t even know they are there, or that they might be polluting their water. State law doesn’t require anyone to warn them.

    The state Department of Environmental Protection, in charge of cleaning up the mess, was originally supposed to work on the highest-priority sites first, those posing the greatest threat to human health.

    But at the direction of lawmakers and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, that’s no longer the case.

    12-foot-long white shark pinged in Gulf near Tampa on New Year's Day

    A 12-foot 5-inch 1,668 pound female white shark named "Miss Costa" was pinged in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa on New Year's Day.

    "Miss Costa" was tagged on September 26, 2016 in Nantucket, Massachusetts by OCEARCH.ORG to gather scientific data and track her journey. She was named for their partner Costa Sunglasses. Costa has helped enable OCEARCH's work on the water.

    "Miss Costa" has traveled 5,639.237 miles and counting since being tagged. She has made her way from Massachusetts to as far south as Key West and as of January 1, 2018, she was hanging out in the waters off of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

    Despite frigid Florida temperatures, water too warm to kill red tide, experts say

    The chill that is essentially freezing Floridians to the core probably won’t have a big effect one of the state’s least popular nautical residents: red tide.

    Despite this, the bloom that had been stinking up Southwest Florida shores since at least mid-November appears to be crawling north.

    According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s mid-week red tide report studying water samples taken from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2, the Karenia brevis organism was found in background concentrations in one sample near Pinellas County; in low concentrations in one sample in Manatee; and in background to high concentrations in the 16 samples in Sarasota.

    Some water samples in Charlotte and Lee counties also had high concentrations, which means there were more than 1 million K. brevis cells per liter of water. Fish kills and respiratory irritation were also reported between Sarasota and Lee counties.

    Coastal waters threaten Florida's historic resources

    DAYTONA BEACH — The Castillo de San Marcos withstood two sieges in 330 years and changed hands five times, but its latest invader — the rising Atlantic Ocean — threatens to erode the historic St. Augustine fortress. The coquina shell walls of the oldest masonry fort in the United States once absorbed cannonballs but will be susceptible to the buffetings of the sea.

    On the other side of the state, Egmont Key was named one of the state’s 11 most endangered places this year by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation because rising seas threaten to submerge the island. Just outside Tampa Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, the island holds sacred significance for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as well as the ruins of another Spanish-American era fort, but its elevation is just six feet.

    “It’s the first project that we’ve placed on our annual endangered list because it’s endangered by sea level rise,” said Clay Henderson, president of the trust, when the key was added to the list earlier this year.

    Like the St. Augustine fort and Egmont Key, thousands of Florida’s heritage sites are vulnerable to rising seas, said Henderson, executive director of Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience. “Jupiter Lighthouse, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Fort Jefferson and Fort Pickens in Pensacola — all of these places are threatened.”

    “When you look at St. Augustine, the oldest city in existence in our country, and it’s flooded twice in the last year, these are real threats,” he said. “They’re no longer academic and off in the future. They’re in real time.”

    Growing concerns

    Similar concerns are growing across the state and country as experts begin to assess what could be damaged or lost and how soon that could happen. In some places, damage already is occurring.

    Federal scientists say seas in parts of Florida have risen at a rate of about a third of an inch a year over the past decade. Mid-range forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicate seas could rise anywhere from 13 to 39 inches in Florida by 2070 and as much as 72 inches by 2100.

    Red tide bloom spreading out along Southwest Florida coast

    DEC.29th » A red tide bloom that's been lingering along the Southwest Florida coast for the past two months has spread out and grown more dense in recent days.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reporting counts of 1 million cells per liter of Karenia brevis (the organism that causes red tides in this region) and higher in Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee counties.

    "I got 2 million cells per liter just south of Sanibel," said Rick Bartleson, a water quality scientists at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation who takes samples and reports them to fish and wildlife. "I also found 2 million cells per liter about a-mile-and-a-half south of Sanibel, and all of the samples I took (in other areas along the coast) had Karenia."

    Fish kills can happen when counts reach 10,000 cells per liter and have been reported in Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota, although Bartleson said the strongest part of the blooms is offshore.

    Karenia brevis is a natural part of the ecosystem but can bloom to high concentrations when conditions favor it.

    Blooms typically start off around Sarasota and work their way south toward Collier County and Marco Island.

    This bloom probably started in October as several cormorants with red tide poisoning were taken to the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, or CROW, on Sanibel then.

    Red tide, boat strikes cause of most manatee deaths in 2017

    A prolonged red tide season that bled over from 2016 played a large role in deaths of the Florida manatee this year.

    Red tide’s presence was visible — visually and nasally — from September 2016 through February in Manatee County, with other areas along Southwest Florida also being exposed.

    Also known as the accumulation of the phytoplankton Karenia brevis, red tide used to be a one-off reason for manatee mortality, said Katie Tripp, Save the Manatee’s director of science and conservation.

    In 2016, a total of 520 manatees were reported dead statewide, with various causes such as boat strikes, cold stress syndrome or natural. This year, preliminary counts through Dec. 15 put the count at 513. Many of them occurred in Brevard or Lee counties, as a lot of manatees congregate in those waters. More often than not, the cause of death goes undetermined.

    Hours changing at HEC3 in 2018

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    Pinellas County’s Household Electronics and Chemical Collection Center (HEC3), located at 2855 109th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, will change its operating hours beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. The new hours will be Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    The center’s current operating hours of Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. will remain in place through Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, with the center always closed on Sunday and closed for Christmas on Monday, Dec. 25 and New Year’s Day on Monday, Jan. 1.

    The new operating hours change will also include the Swap Shop, which offers used household products such as paint, cleaners and automotive fluids free of charge to Pinellas County residents.

    The change in operating hours will optimize the county’s resources in order to best serve its customers. The center will continue to provide the same level of customer service to Pinellas County residents, who are invited to drop off their unwanted household electronics and chemicals at the HEC3 free of charge.

    For more information, please visit www.pinellascounty.org/solidwaste or call Pinellas County Solid Waste at (727) 464-7500.