Water-Related News

Sand fight! Properties will be skipped in beach renourishment

A fight over sand! The Pinellas County beaches we all love could be in jeopardy because of 60 missing easement signatures. Despite doing everything the county asked, several beachfront properties won’t be getting sand.

50 Gulfside Condominiums in Indian Rocks Beach is one building that got all 50 of its condo owners to sign off on an easement for a beach renourishment project planned to begin this December. The county required all beachfront property owners to sign the easement in order to add sand to those properties. However, the county needs 1,500 feet of beach to renourish each section, and that means if neighboring properties don't sign off, the entire area could be skipped.

More than 5,000 lionfish removed so far in Lionfish Challenge 2017

Interested in removing lionfish? There’s still plenty of time to compete in this year’s Lionfish Challenge, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) statewide removal incentive program. The program started on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, May 20, and ends Sept. 4. Over 5,000 lionfish have been removed from Florida waters thanks to the program, including nearly 3,700 recreational fish removals and more than 1,200 pounds commercially (equates to about 1,400 fish).

The challenge rewards lionfish harvesters with prizes such as T-shirts, tumblers, heat packs for stings, pole spears, an extra spiny lobster per day during the two-day sport season, and much more. It only takes 25 lionfish (or 25 pounds commercially) to qualify for the program and the more lionfish you enter, the more prizes you will receive. Plus, all participants are entered into a raffle to win even more prizes such as Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium gift bags, ZombieStickz pole spears and customized ZooKeeper Lionfish Containment Units.

The persons with the most lionfish at the end of the competition will be crowned the Lionfish King or Queen (recreational category) and the Commercial Champion at the Lionfish Safari tournament in St. Petersburg the weekend of Sept. 9.

Think you have what it takes to be crowned the next Lionfish King/Queen or Commercial Champion? Sign up and learn more today by visiting MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

Study of freshwater turtles to improve treatment of toxins in sea turtles

New research is paying off long-term for endangered sea turtles facing illness and even death during Florida red tides. From 2011-2014, the NCCOS sponsored project “Brevetoxin Metabolism and Physiology – A Freshwater Model of Morbidity in Endangered Sea Turtles” used non-endangered freshwater turtles as models to determine the effects of Florida red tide on endangered sea turtles.

Karenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism, produces a suite of nerve toxins called brevetoxins. The toxins cause human respiratory illness along beaches and accumulate in shellfish, which, when consumed by humans, cause Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning. Severe blooms result in mass mortality of fish and a number of protected and endangered species. Among the species impacted are threatened and endangered sea turtles.

With sea turtles, brevetoxin concentrations that compromise organ physiological and immune functions are generally unknown. Due to the legal status of federally protected sea turtles, basic physiological questions cannot be addressed directly, as they require experimental investigation with controlled doses of toxins on healthy animals. The use of freshwater turtles as a surrogate physiological system allows for the determination of effects of brevetoxins on turtle physiology and immunology and helps develop effective treatment plans for sea turtles.

Led by Dr. Sarah Milton (Florida Atlantic University) and co-lead Dr. Catherine Walsh (Mote Marine Laboratory), the research project used freshwater turtles to identify how red tide toxin gets into turtles, how long it stays, and the impacts on organs such as the lungs, muscles, and nervous system. The research continued beyond 2014 with funding from the U. S. National Institutes of Health and other agencies.

Florida communities prepare for sea level rise, potential costs to local economy

Imagine: $16 billion of local coastal property permanently underwater, including up to 30,000 homes. Property tax rolls slashed by more than $250 million. Tens of thousands of coastal jobs displaced or lost, cutting upwards of $161 billion from the Tampa Bay regional economy. Waterfront parks and infrastructure washed away or made obsolete.

“It’s a statement of the problem,” explains Brady Smith, a planner at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. “One could say the problem is sea level rise. What does that mean, exactly? What are our vulnerabilities?”

“The Cost of Doing Nothing,” a study released earlier this year by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, paints a striking economic portrait of how rising sea levels might transform the area’s economy by 2060 if Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Manatee county communities fail to take more measures to reduce their flood risk.

The idea behind the report? To equip local communities with a more tangible understanding of what may be at stake as seas rise.

Water Hogs: During drought, hundreds of Tampa Bay homes guzzled a gallon of water a minute

When Amalie Oil president Harry Barkett plunked down $6.75-million for his Bayshore Boulevard mansion, he picked up 12.5 bathrooms, a pool, a hot tub, an elevator and a deck bigger than some one-bedroom apartments.

But the home included one other item: a huge water bill.

During the first five months of 2017, the 13,000-square foot house used 1.2 million gallons of water, more than any other residence in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater or unincorporated Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Put another way, that's more than 8,000 gallons of water a day, about as much as the average house uses in an entire month.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay area was suffering one of the worst droughts in its history. Just 11.93 inches of rain fell from October through May — the fourth lowest amount ever for that period. The result was brush fires and water restrictions. Gov. Rick Scott had to declare a state of emergency and the National Weather Service termed it a "severe drought.''

Yet hundreds of homes across the region's ritziest neighborhoods averaged more than a gallon of water a minute during the dry months.

Sea level rise is accelerating in Florida, scientists warn

Clay Henderson has lived on the same block along the Indian River in New Smyrna Beach for 34 years. Living in a storm-prone state like Florida, you expect to see a river top its bank on occasion, but only in the past two years has Henderson seen it happen on sunny days.

He hears similar stories almost everywhere he travels in Florida. In dozens of locations along the state's 1,350-mile coastline, sea level rise is no longer an esoteric discussion or a puzzle for future generations to solve. It's happening now and is forecast to worsen over the next 20 to 30 years.

Canal systems in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables have become a liability. For officials in Port Orange and Longboat Key, fortifying storm drains against encroaching seawater is a concern. Along the Withlacoochee River on Florida's Gulf Coast and the Matanzas River at Marineland, residents report finding saltwater species they've never seen before in those waterways.

Rick Kriseman's administration lashed in St. Pete sewage report

A state report places much of the blame for the city's 200-million gallon sewage spill crisis on the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The 7-page draft report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, does not name Kriseman or any of his staff. It also starts with the long view, blaming two decades of city leadership for setting the stage for St. Petersburg's massive sewage problems.

Then the report quickly zooms in on the recent crisis and the mistakes, indifference and neglect that sparked it, exacerbated it and prevented City Hall from making a course correction while millions of gallons of sewage spewed into neighborhoods and waterways.

"(St. Petersburg's) leadership has had a culture of being willfully and negligently indifferent toward known problems in its waste water treatment system that ultimately lead to some of the largest wastewater discharges in State history," wrote FWC investigator Ammon Fisher.

This is the report that Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe used when he recently decided that no city officials should face criminal charges in the sewage mess.

St. Pete sewage crisis ends with no charges, $326 million bill

The city has put the legal fallout from the sewage crisis behind it.

Last week, St. Petersburg officials learned that the criminal investigation into the crisis — the city dumped up to 200 million gallons of waste from 2015-16 — would not result in any city employees facing charges.

That was contingent on the St. Petersburg City Council approving a consent order with the state pledging to spend $326 million to improve the sewage system that failed so spectacularly.

The council did just that on Thursday evening. They expressed reservations about how the city will pay for those repairs. But they were also ready to put months of blame, criticism and opprobrium behind them.

FDOT moving ahead with new solution to stormwater pollution

Work on a “look-around” solution to water quality continues at the Florida Department of Transportation where nearly all necessary permits have been completed for a 239-foot bridge that will enhance tidal flow to the bay section north of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

Originally proposed as part of the Tampa Bay Express project, the bridge is expected to lead to water quality improvements and the anticipated seagrass gains will now be used as mitigation for multiple FDOT projects across the region. The $10.5 million project will be less expensive than the traditional go-to retention pond solution to stormwater management in a region where available land is growing scarcer – and more expensive.

FDOT consultants expect it to have a significant impact on the water quality in the area north of the causeway where seagrasses species are limited because of low salinity. The cut in the bridge is expected to nearly double tidal flows to the section of Old Tampa Bay north of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, increasing the potential for other seagrasses to recruit into what is currently a monoculture of wigeon grass (Ruppia maritima), a pioneer species more tolerant of lower salinity but a less extensive root system.

228 derelict crab traps removed from Tampa Bay in blue crab fishery closure

Tampa Bay Watch had a very successful derelict crab trap removal project on Saturday in which 228 traps were removed from Tampa Bay during Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's 10-day regional closure of blue crab fishing. Over 100 volunteers on 35 boats participated at six locations around the bay. 68 traps were collected in Belleair Bluffs, 78 in Boca Ciega Bay, 30 at Cockroach Bay, 27 in St. Pete at Demens Landing, 12 in Upper Tampa Bay at Courtney Campbell Causeway and 13 in Alafia River at Williams Park!

This event would not be possible without the help from dedicated volunteers and project partners including Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, ReelCycle, Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation, St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation, Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, Pinellas County & the City of Largo.

Attention Boaters! FWC has established new manatee protection zones for the state

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Manatee protection rules are established by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to restrict the speed and operation of vessels to protect manatees from being injured. Although the manatee species’ status was changed from endangered to threatened in March of 2017, there was a record number of manatees killed in Florida by boaters in 2016, so it’s imperative to obey speed zones. Click on the following links to see the maps of the updated speed zones.

Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, & links to all maps for the State of Florida.

Boaters needed for Great Bay Scallop Search

Don your snorkel and sign up quickly: The Great Bay Scallop Search date has been set for Saturday, August 26. The Tampa Bay Watch are recruiting 200 volunteer snorkelers to search for scallops in select areas within Boca Ciega and Lower Tampa Bay. The goal of the event is to monitor and document the health and status of the bay scallop population. Sign up fast for this free event, and help us tally up the bay scallop population in Tampa Bay!

They are recruiting volunteers with shallow draft boats. They have already filled all of our spots for canoes/kayaks and volunteer snorkelers without boats.

Click here to read more about the Scallop Search.

Registration fills up very quickly, so don't hesitate to sign up today!

Critics of DEP water rules now are more hopeful for appeals

Critics of state limits on toxic chemicals in waterways expressed optimism following an appeals court ruling on Tuesday that reversed the dismissal of legal challenges to the state standards.

In July 2016, a sharply divided state Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 during a boisterous meeting to approve new human health criteria despite opposition from environmental activists, some local governments and industry groups.

An administrative law judge threw out challenges filed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the city of Miami, the Florida Pulp and Paper Association and Martin County because he said they were filed late. But the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that Judge Bram D. E. Canter erred by siding with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in ruling that the deadline had passed.

Nitrogen Management Consortium honored by research federation

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Nitrogen Management Consortium has received the inaugural Coastal Stewardship Award from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF). The Consortium was honored for its long-standing, innovative public-private partnership to reduce nitrogen pollution in Tampa Bay.

CERF is a national federation of coastal and estuarine scientists and managers dedicated to advancing knowledge and wise use of estuaries and coasts. Every two years, CERF recognizes individual excellence in the fields of coastal and estuarine science, management and education through several scientific and service awards. This is the first year the Federation has honored an organization, project or program as well.

The awards committee noted that Tampa Bay's Nitrogen Management Consortium "demonstrated impressive achievements in all the key criteria considered important in the mission of CERF to promote the wise use of science and management toward the stewardship of estuaries and coasts around the world."

The Consortium, formed by TBEP in 1996, is comprised of more than 55 public and private entities from throughout the Tampa Bay watershed who work together to maintain water quality and seagrass recovery in the bay. NMC members include cities and counties, regulatory agencies and key industries such as fertilizer manufacturing, electric utilities and agriculture. Since 1996, the group collectively has constructed more than 500 projects to reduce nitrogen loadings in the bay, resulting in water quality equal to that of 1950. Tampa Bay also has regained 16,000 acres of seagrass, surpassing 1950s levels, at the same time our population has grown from 1 million to nearly 3 million.

"I have grown up on the bay and have watched the cycles of change and I know that TBEP has been a key part of its continued improvement. Hillsborough County is proud to have such an excellent program as TBEP contributing to the health and ongoing rehabilitation of the bay," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White.

The Consortium's success in engaging diverse stakeholders also was lauded by a sister watershed management program in Chesapeake Bay.

"We watched and learned from their extraordinary efforts to reach out and directly engage all the source sectors, local governments, businesses, and advocacy groups, and make them part of the shared decision-making process. They effectively blurred the lines between public and private, turning us and them into we," said Rich Batiuk, an EPA scientist who has been involved with the Chesapeake Bay Program for 25 years.

Learn more about the Nitrogen Management Consortium and all the 2017 CERF Scientific Award Recipients at http://www.erf.org/cerf-2017-scientific-award-recipients#Coastal

Divers protect over 1 million fish from invasive lionfish

Divers removed 1,079 invasive lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico, saving an estimated total of at least 1.6 million fish from the invasive predator during the fourth annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby, which concluded July 9 at Mote Marine Laboratory.

The Sarasota, Florida-based derby was a partnership effort among Mote, a world-class marine science institution, and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion, sanctions official lionfish derbies, and provided the estimate of the Sarasota derby's benefit to fish. This was the first derby in the 2017 Summer Lionfish Derby Series coordinated by REEF. Three upcoming derbies are accepting registrations at: www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies.

The Sarasota derby from July 7-9 drew 14 teams, more than double last year’s six teams. Team divers vied to catch the most lionfish, the largest lionfish and the smallest lionfish in Gulf of Mexico waters ranging from Collier to Escambia County.

St. Pete City Council delays vote on consent order on sewage crisis

For more than a year, state Department of Environment Protection officials have been investigating the city’s sewage crisis in talks, eventually resulting in a proposed consent order that City Council members were poised to approve Thursday.

But that drawn-out process just got a little longer. Council chairwoman Darden Rice said Wednesday that council consideration of the item has been pushed back for at least a week.

City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch will incorporate suggestions from council members about the order and resubmit it to the DEP. The DEP had already signed it, Rice said.

The order, including costs, has $820,000 in penalties for the city’s discharge of about 200 million gallons since August 2015. The city will almost certainly forgo the fine by paying for pollution control projects of an equivalent amount. The order also mandates that the city spend hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading its system, something Mayor Rick Kriseman has already pledged to do.

Outside legal costs have topped $130,000 for the city to negotiate the order and defend against a federal lawsuit alleging the city violated the Clean Water Act.

New, intensive course fosters good water stewardship

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Become a Water Steward – Working With Water, Working With People

To make a difference concerning the issues surrounding water quality and quantity in our communities, we must understand the various ways in which we interact with water. As Floridians, we are connected to our oceans and bays by our faucets and laundries, to our neighborhood ponds and lakes by our yards and streets, and to our regional and statewide neighbors by our surface and groundwater supplies.

This new program will use expert presentations, online explorations, experiential learning, field experience in watershed science, and communication skills training to foster a greater understanding of these interactions and provide the tools necessary to become stewards of our water resources. During this seven-session course, participants will travel to locations across Pinellas County to explore the natural beauty, learn about emerging water issues, and meet with local experts. Classes will meet between August 22nd and November 4th. The cost for the seven-session course is $89.

Participants also will work together to produce a stewardship project that makes a difference in the community, will attend a relevant stakeholder meeting, and between class sessions will explore online resources to learn more about water.

This course has limited seating/availability. Register early to reserve your spot.

For more information about this course, please use the link below, or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County Natural Resources Agent, Lara Milligan, at lmilligan@co.pinellas.fl.us or 727-453-6905.

Tom Palmer: Problem of water use is not a new issue

To hear some political leaders discuss the increasing challenges of addressing water supply issues lately, you might think this is a relatively recent issue. The same goes for some of the approaches to storing water for future use.

I was reading something the other day about this topic.

“Our water resources can and will be exhausted unless we use them wisely and plan for some method of storing to be used in dry seasons,” it read.

This was from a Florida textbook titled “Florida: Wealth of Waste.” It was published in 1946.

Flash forward to 1973 and read a treatise written by Garald Parker (1905-2000). Parker was known as the “father of Florida groundwater hydrology” and the person credited with coining the term “Swiftmud” to refer to the Southwest Florida Water Management District. At the time, he was Swiftmud’s chief hydrologist and senior scientist.

He suggested more efficient irrigation, treating and reusing sewer discharges, building desalination plants, development of regional wellfield complexes and water distribution systems, capturing and storing storm runoff underground, and taking care not to mine the aquifer.

The last term refers to withdrawing water from the aquifer faster than it can be replenished by rainfall.

It has taken time, but many of these measures were eventually adopted in this part of the state.

Water Atlas program, faculty, Atlas sponsors receive FLMS Awards

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The USF Water Institute was one of five recipients of FLMS Awards of Excellence at the 2017 Florida Lake Management Society symposium in Captiva Island. Former USF Water Institute faculty member Jim Griffin was honored by the Society with its highest award, the Marjorie Carr Award, for lifetime achievement.

The USF Water Institute received the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award, given to individuals or organizations who report on aquatic resource issues, for its use of informatics to publicly disseminate data and supporting, explanatory information related to water resource management. The Water Atlas program is Institute's primary vehicle for distributing water information.

Dr. Jim Griffin, principal investigator for the Water Atlas program from 2005 until he retired in 2014, received the Marjorie Carr Award, the Florida Lake Management Society’s highest award. It is given for lifetime work on behalf of Florida’s aquatic resources. The award is named in honor of Marjorie Carr who, among other things, organized citizens and brought to an end the proposed Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Other 2017 FLMS award recipients:

  • Judy Ott received the Edward Deevey, Jr. Award, given to an individual for contributing to our scientific understanding of Florida’s water bodies. Edward Devey was an internationally recognized limnologist and was affiliated with the State Museum of Florida at the time of his death. Judy retired in March after nine years as program scientist for the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.
  • The Seminole County SERV Program received the Dr. Daniel E. Canfield Jr. Volunteerism Award, given to a volunteer organization or outstanding volunteer for significant contributions to the research, restoration, and/or preservation of our water resources. The award is named after Dr. Daniel Canfield, founder of Florida LAKEWATCH, the pioneering citizen-volunteer water quality monitoring program involving over 1,200 lakes statewide, and now being emulated across the United States. The Seminole Education, Restoration and Volunteer (SERV) Program works to actively restore and educate people on how to protect the waterways and natural areas of Seminole County.
  • Nia Wellendorf, Environmental Administrator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, received the FLMS Young Professional Award, presented to a young lake management professional who exhibits exemplary professional accomplishments and a commitment to water resource protection and management of our lakes and watersheds.

Mote’s shelf survey could help scientists improve red tide forecasts

While the circular rosette balancing six hydraulic tubes lightly breaks the surface of the water, scientists aboard the nearby boat scramble to hoist the machinery on deck.

Soon, they will open the tubes and pour each of the samples, taken at three different water depths, into a labeled container. As the rosette travels through the water, it collects data on temperature, salinity, water cloudiness and other factors that could play a role in the nutrients and organisms present.

The samples will then return to the lab, where scientists will filter and analyze them for particular elements, such as Karenia brevis, the toxic Florida red tide organism. The expedition is part of Mote Marine Laboratory’s shelf survey, a research project conducted every eight weeks at 14 stations within the West Florida Shelf, where scientists believe the red tide bloom originates.

Red tide is infamous for its effect on Florida beaches, marked by a bad smell, dead fish that wash up on shore and serious respiratory irritation in people. The harmful algae’s toxin can kill birds and other animals, including the iconic manatee; an estimated 300 manatees were killed by red tide in 2013.

Seminole Water Tank Station park closed

• Site preparation work began this morning at Seminole Water Tank Station park
• Fencing will be erected within the next few weeks to protect public and site
• Deteriorating water tank station has been inoperable since 2012 and will be removed to prevent potential public safety hazard

The park surrounding the Seminole Water Tank Station is now closed as contractors hired by Pinellas County Utilities prepare the station for demolition. A pipe contractor hired by Utilities is currently locating supply lines to be capped before a demolition contractor begins work. Fencing will be installed around the perimeter of the property within the next few weeks. The station, which is owned by Utilities, has been inoperable and unneeded since 2012.

The station was once part of water distribution infrastructure operated by Utilities. It was built in the 1950s, used throughout several decades and taken out of service when new utility technology made it obsolete. However, ongoing annual maintenance costs amount to more than $13,000, compounded by deferred maintenance expenses estimated at $125,000. The demolition will save Utilities rate payers money and prevent continuing deterioration of the tower with the potential to create a public safety hazard.

Previously, the County offered the City of Seminole several opportunities to purchase or lease the property. Those options were declined, and no agreement could be reached.

Pinellas County Utilities is obligated by its financial duty to its customers to limit liability for the aging structure and recover the investment made in the land. By selling the property, Pinellas County Utilities will further uphold its duty to its customers by returning the funds to the Utilities Water Fund—a separate utility enterprise funded by water utility customers. This will help keep utility rates affordable, while ensuring the revenue can be reinvested in the utility system toward maintenance, operations and other critical services.

Demolition work is expected to be completed in November.

FWC asking for public’s help in tracking fish kills

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) needs your help in monitoring fish health by tracking marine and freshwater fish kills in Florida.

FWC scientists monitor and document fish kills and diseases, as well as other aquatic animal health issues and associated environmental events. Many factors can contribute to a fish kill. The good news is that most natural water bodies are resilient to fish kill events.

The public can report fish kills to the FWC at MyFWC.com/FishKill or by calling the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511. You can also submit a report through the “FWC Reporter” app on your iOS or Android mobile devices.

Scallopers get ready, more waters open for harvest starting July 1

Celebrate the Fourth of July with bay scallops. State waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Pasco/Hernando county line will be open for scalloping starting July 1. A span of waters in the middle from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County opened earlier this month on June 16 and will close on Sept. 10. (See map.)

These new season dates are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons. Harvesting bay scallops is a fun outdoor activity that the whole family can participate in. It also brings an important economic boost to coastal areas in the open region.

The scallop season in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County will be July 25 through Sept. 10 and includes all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County, through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.

All state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County, and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County will be open July 1 through Sept. 24.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff worked with local community leaders on selecting these regional 2017 season dates.

At the December 2017 Commission meeting, staff will review public feedback on these changes and make a recommendation for future management. Staff will host public workshops to gather feedback after the season closes. To submit your feedback now on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone are 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.

Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.

Scallops must be landed within the area that is open to harvest.

There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.

Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy when scalloping in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed.

Pinellas property owners draw line in the sand against beach renourishment project

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — To keep its mid-county beaches in tip-top shape, Pinellas County is planning a $36.5 million beach renourishment project funded mostly with federal tax dollars through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Beachfront property owners from Clearwater to North Redington Beach must voluntarily agree to the project for the plan to move forward, but they have failed to sign 63 out of the 120 required easements.

“We don’t trust the government,” said Ron Gonzalez who represents the Gulf Mariner Condominium Association.

When the Army Corps of Engineers starts replenishing a nine-mile stretch of Sand Key at the end of this year, they will likely have to hop-scotch past a number of sections to create a patchwork of restored beaches and skip 1.2 miles of beachfront due to balking land owners. They will skip any section that has less than a 1500 foot long stretch of signed easements. “I wish we could fill those areas but we can’t fill 100, 200 foot lots,” said Pinellas County coastal manager John Bishop. “That’s too small of an area.”

Bishop says the emotional groundswell of citizen opposition at recent public meetings caught him and other renourishment architects by surprise. “We’re not planning on doing anything differently than we did in previous years,” Bishop said. “We’re just trying to build the same project we always have.”

A federal law, put on the books in 1986, requires beachfront property owners to sign easements “in perpetuity” to guarantee public access, after millions of dollars of tax money is spent to improve their beachfront, but the Army Corps didn’t begin enforcing that law until trouble emerged during beach renourishment in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.

Now dozens of angry and rebellious property owners in Pinellas County have railed against that policy as a “state’s rights” issue and a fundamental violation of their property rights. “That’s correct,” Gonzalez said. “They’re taking over our property.”

Trump administration moves to withdraw clean-water rule

The Trump administration moved Tuesday to roll back an Obama administration policy that protected more than half the nation's streams from pollution but drew attacks from farmers, fossil fuel companies and property-rights groups as federal overreach.

The 2015 regulation sought to settle a debate over which waterways are covered under the Clean Water Act, which has dragged on for years and remained murky despite two Supreme Court rulings. President Donald Trump issued an executive order in February instructing the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rescind or revise the Obama rule, which environmentalists say is essential to protecting water for human consumption and wildlife.

In a statement, the agencies announced plans to begin the withdrawal process, describing it as an interim step. When it is completed, the agencies said, they will undergo a broader review of which waters should fall under federal jurisdiction.

Summer fertilizer ban in effect through September

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From June 1st to Sept. 30th, Pinellas County residents may not apply fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus to lawns and landscape plants
Fertilizer runoff can pollute rivers, lakes, bays and the Gulf of Mexico, cause algae blooms and lead to fish kills

As the rainy summer season approaches, residents and commercial landscapers in Pinellas County are reminded to temporarily stop using nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers. Starting June 1 – Sept. 30, which is typically the end of our rainy season, fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus are prohibited. Phosphorus is restricted year-round without a proper soil test as Florida soils are naturally abundant in phosphorus.

Limiting fertilizer use prevents additional pollutants from entering storm drains and water bodies such as rivers, lakes, Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous can cause harmful algae blooms that can lower oxygen levels and lead to fish kills.Treatment to remove these excess nutrients could cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

Follow these Florida-friendly lawn care practices to keep a healthy landscape over the summer:

  • Look for products with “0-0” as the first two numbers on the fertilizer label.
  • Apply iron, found at most garden centers, to keep lawns green during the summer without increasing growth which will lessen the amount of mowing required.
  • Use compost to enrich soil.
  • Set lawn mower blades between 3 and a half to 4 inches for St. Augustine grass to encourage deep roots that resist fungus and pests.
  • Buy plants adapted to Florida’s hot and humid climate and plant them in places according to sun and water needs.
  • Hire lawn care professionals that display Best Management Practices decals on their vehicles.
  • Sweep or blow grass clippings back into the yard. Do not direct clippings into the road, stormwater system or water bodies.

Pinellas County is one of more than 90 Florida communities that have summertime fertilizer restrictions.

Landscapers and residents looking for more tips on skipping fertilizer can visit, www.befloridian.org. Pinellas County has an ordinance in place regulating landscape practices and fertilizer sale. To learn more, visit www.pinellascounty.org/environment/watershed/fertilizer.htm.

Feeling bugged? Attend the Mosquito Control Open House Friday, June 30th

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As summer rains, high temperatures and humidity become the seasonal norm, Pinellas County is marking National Mosquito Control Awareness Week June 25 – July 1 with a crucial message to residents: breaking the mosquito cycle starts at home.

To help citizens learn more about how to prevent mosquito breeding, Pinellas County Mosquito Control will host an open house, Friday, June 30, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m., at 4100 118th Ave. N., Clearwater.

The event will give citizens the opportunity to ask technicians questions and tour the Mosquito Control facilities, including the helicopter, lab, mosquito fish tanks and other technologies.

“Drain and cover,” said Rob Krueger, entomology and education support specialist at Pinellas County Mosquito Control. “Drain sources of standing water around your home or workplace and cover exposed skin with EPA-approved mosquito repellents.”

Mosquito Control is encouraging citizens to do their part to reduce the mosquito population with some simple steps:

  • Empty water from any item that can hold water (examples: flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, boat tarps, old tires and buckets).
  • Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
  • Flush ornamental bromeliads or treat with BTI, a biological larvicide available at home stores.
  • Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water.
  • Change the water in outdoor pet dishes regularly.
  • Keep pools and spas chlorinated and filtered.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.
  • Cover rain barrels with screening.
  • Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioner drip areas, and around septic tanks and heat pumps.
  • Take steps to eliminate standing water, improve drainage and prevent future puddling.

Technicians note that many local homes have items or areas that contain standing water – ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes – contributing to the mosquito problem. Mosquito larvae only need a fraction of an inch of standing water to survive.

Pinellas County is planning to host Tire Amnesty Days in the coming months to aid residents in the disposal of old tires, which can be breeding habitats for mosquitoes. Dates, locations and times will be announced soon.

Mosquito bites can irritate skin and potentially spread disease. Residents are urged to protect their skin from mosquito bites when outdoors by wearing mosquito repellent (products containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus) and loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants. These simple preventative measures can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in Pinellas County and minimize mosquito-borne diseases.

Technicians are aggressively treating known breeding areas by ground and by air, as well as responding to calls from citizens.

In 2016, Mosquito Control received over 4,000 service requests from Pinellas County residents and businesses – with an average response time of 24 hours or less.

For more information about Pinellas County Mosquito Control, visit www.pinellascounty.org/resident/mosquito_control.htm.

Tarpon Springs renews push for money to dredge Anclote River

In a pocket formed at the end of a branch of the Anclote River, Kevin Meisman has seen the size of the boats coming by his family's business get smaller. c Over time, sand and debris have made the path to Quality T-Tops & Boats Accessories more shallow. It has become harder to service bigger boats that use a deeper draft, he said, and sometimes a high tide is the only way to get some through.

Although he doesn't place all the blame on the lack of dredging, which could clear silt in the river for more depth, he believes it has played a role in the shift in business.

"If more people are reduced to a certain type of boat they can use, then it means we're reduced to a certain type of work we can do," said Meisman, 37.

He has heard talk from the city for years that a dredging project was imminent, but money has been an obstacle.

Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed Tarpon Springs' request for about $920,000 in state funding toward dredging the river. Still, city officials plan to continue pushing for a project that many agree is long overdue.

According to an economic impact study the city submitted to the state and to Scott, the river supports nearly 150 businesses and about 2,500 jobs. Mayor Chris Alahouzos says it's the source of $252 million in marine commerce and tourism. He was surprised when he heard about the veto.