Water-Related News

Your questions about Red Tide’s attack on Pinellas County answered (w/video)

Now that the Red Tide algae bloom that’s been lingering along the Southwest Florida coast since last November has finally reached Pinellas County’s beaches, a lot of readers have questions about the toxic bloom’s effects. Here are some answers.

Why did Red Tide land here after all this time?

The algae bloom shifts a bit each day, depending on winds and currents. This Red Tide algae bloom, the worst in a decade, has slowly been creeping northward along the gulf coast. It hit Anna Maria Island near the mouth of Tampa Bay in early August, and then showed up about 5 miles off Fort DeSoto by the end of August. It reached Pinellas’ famous beaches over the Sept. 11 weekend and has been here ever since.

Where is it?

Generally speaking, all the beaches south of Tarpon Springs have been hit. As of Monday the bloom had also invaded the Intracoastal Waterway as well as residential canals, so it’s popping up all over.

Red tide now impacting Pinellas County's intracoastal waterways and seabirds

The toxic red tide in Pinellas County is now spreading into the Intracoastal where hundreds of thousands of dead fish are floating along miles of canals, piling up on the banks and drifting in and out with the tide.

“Dead fish everywhere. They’re everywhere,” Isla Del Sol resident Ed Manola said with a sigh looking out at a heap of dead fish collecting outside his Bahia Del Mar condo building.

Within moments of stepping outside, Manola says the smell is bad enough to force him back into his home.

Boca Ciega Bay was draped with dead fish Tuesday.

7 miles up the Intracoastal, Madeira Beach homeowner Deby Weinstein watched as a line of fish floated out with the tide. “They are just chug a lug together all swarmed in one area,” she explained.

Public meetings set for proposed Flood Insurance Rate Map changes

County property owners may soon see changes in their flood insurance requirements. To help explain the changes and what actions property owners may need to take, Pinellas County and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are partnering to hold four Open House meetings Sept. 25 – 27. The meetings will provide information to property owners that may be affected by proposed changes to the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).

FIRMs show the extent and risk for flooding and are used to determine flood insurance premiums and building requirements. FEMA released the updated map in June, and many property owners are seeing a projected change in their flood risk. Residents can view their map change at www.pinellascounty.org/flooding/fema_firm.htm. Data has been updated since the original release in late June, so property owners who checked the map earlier should do so again.

The meeting dates and sites are as follows:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 25: YMCA at Lealman Community Campus, 5175 45th St. N., St. Petersburg, 6 – 9 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 26: Countryside Recreation Center, 2640 Sabal Springs Drive, Clearwater, 6 – 9 p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 27: Seminole Recreation Center, 9100 113th Street N., Seminole, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 6 – 9 p.m.

Many popular Pinellas beaches remain unscathed by Red Tide

Regina and Mark Evans pulled up to Treasure Island on Sunday hoping for white sand and clear water. Instead, they got a shoreline filled with dead fish.

When Red Tide hit the Tampa Bay area last weekend, fish died, and so did beach plans.

"As we pulled into town, Red Tide pulled into town. Poor timing," said Regina Evans, who was in town vacationing with her husband from Cincinnati.

Piles of stinky fish have piled up on Pinellas County beaches, ruining a few beach outings. But several of the county’s most popular beaches remain relatively clear, despite the algae bloom creeping along the Gulf Coast.

The weather forecast could have people longing for a beach trip in the coming days.

While the high temperature may top 90, this weekend is shaping up to be less humid than normal, said Tony Hurt, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Ruskin office. Hurricane Florence, which was near the North Carolina and South Carolina border Friday, was suppressing cloud and shower development here, he said.

Kelli Levy, Pinellas’ director of environmental management, said the following beaches were generally free of dead fish as of Friday morning: Clearwater Beach, Sand Key Park, Fred Howard Park, Belleair Beach and Belleair Shore. St. Pete Beach is very good, mostly free of Red Tide’s effects, and Fort De Soto Park is "excellent," Levy said.

"A lot of the beaches had a few dead fish wash in and they were cleaned up. But a lot of them are sandy and normal," Levy said.

Volunteer boaters needed for 25th annual fishing line cleanup

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Abandoned and discarded fishing line ensnares local birds and marine mammals

Tampa Bay Watch, in partnership with Audubon Florida, is mainly recruiting volunteers with shallow-draft boats, and has limited space for kayaks/canoes/SUPs to independently remove tangled fishing line from mangroves and shorelines of Tampa Bay’s colonial bird nesting islands. Boaters are encouraged to independently clean their assigned island anytime throughout the week of Saturday, October 6–Sunday, October 14.

Last year’s cleanup resulted in an estimated 18,860 feet of fishing line being removed from 25 different coastal nesting sites around Tampa Bay. Thank you to Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund for sponsoring this important event.

Visit the link below to register your boat:

Volunteers needed for cleanups in South St. Pete Sept. 22nd

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Tampa Bay Watch National Estuaries Day/International Coastal Cleanup

When: Saturday, September 22 from 9am - noon

In honor of National Estuaries Week & Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup, Tampa Bay Watch is recruiting volunteers for a cleanup of four sites (Skyway, Little Bayou Preserve, Bartlett Park, and Tampa Bay Watch). Volunteers are still needed for Bartlett Park and Little Bayou Preserve.

A big thank you to our funders, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. We are also grateful for our continued partnership with the City of St. Petersburg and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Volunteer at Little Bayou Preserve »

Volunteer at Bartlett Park »

Celebrate 2018 Estuaries Week with these activities in the Tampa Bay watershed

What are you doing for #EstuariesWeek 2018?

Guided trips, cleanups, and other activities throughout the Tampa Bay watershed are being promoted to celebrate National Estuaries Week, officially September 15-22, 2018. Please click the links below for details about each event.

September 15

September 22

Whether joining these events or having fun on your own, please tag your photos on social media sites with #LoveTampaBay and #EstuariesWeek so everyone can see how you celebrate!

Celebrate National Estuaries Week by planting... tea bags!

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In honor of National Estuaries Week, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) and Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) are launching a new, 2-part volunteer citizen science effort to study carbon in soils at several Manatee County preserves. Volunteers will travel in groups to "plant" tea bags that will help TBEP and SBEP collect data on soil carbon.

These data will be shared as part of the global citizen science effort called the Tea Bag Index that aims to understand soil carbon storage in ecosystems around the world. Lunch will be provided at Motorworks Brewing (drinks on your own). To register, please visit the link below.

Photo: Tea Bag Index

Red Tide arrives in Pinellas, killing hundreds of thousands of fish

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County environmental officials have reported hundreds of thousands of dead fish on and off the coast of area beaches stretching more than 20 miles from Clearwater to St. Petersburg, confirming that Red Tide has reached the Tampa Bay area.

The first report of fish kills came from the city of Clearwater on Friday, said Kelli Levy, Pinellas’ director of environmental management. Around noon Saturday, the city of St. Petersburg reported "hundreds of thousands" more.

Madeira Beach, Redington Beach and Treasure Island have also been affected, she said. Levy could not provide an overall estimate of how many fish have been found.

Many that floated ashore have been cleaned up by crews from the county and the involved cities that worked throughout the day Saturday. Still, Levy said she expects the clean-up to run through the weekend and into next week, as many dead fish are still floating offshore.

As of Saturday evening, a boat was circling the Intercoastal near Clearwater Pass, scooping hundreds of dead fish off the water’s surface to prevent them from reaching the beach, Levy said. More boats provided through a contractor hired by the county will arrive Sunday morning to help.

The collected fish are put into dumpsters stationed at each beach, and will be taken to the county’s landfill for burial, Levy said.

"It’s a huge community effort of all of us working together," Levy said. "We did a lot today getting logistics in place, tomorrow we’ll have a lot more done, and on Monday and Tuesday, we will be in full operational mode."

New treatment being developed for manatees poisoned by red tide

SARASOTA - Florida International University and Mote Marine Laboratory are developing new and more efficient ways to treat manatees exposed to toxic red tide.

Through a $428,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ECOHAB program, FIU and Mote are launching a three-year project to improve veterinary care for rescued manatees by studying how the cells in their immune system respond to certain antioxidants. The goal is to identify those antioxidants that may work better than the current treatment, which uses anti-inflammatory substances.

FIU chemist Kathleen Rein and Mote marine immunology expert Cathy Walsh are leading the research team.

“The current approach is simply to give palliative care and wait for them to clear the toxin and get better,” Rein said. “This new treatment could accelerate the healing process. If this treatment is successful, it could be used with many other animals including dolphins, turtles and birds.”

Tampa Bay Water offers grants for water protection projects

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$30,000 in grants is available for protecting Tampa Bay Area drinking water sources

CLEARWATER – Ensuring the region’s drinking water is clean and safe starts at the source. Tampa Bay Water is offering mini-grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 to community groups, non-profits, schools and universities that will to join the water utility in preventing pollution, cleaning local waterways and protecting our drinking water sources.

The Tampa Bay region depends on water from our aquifer, rivers and desalinated seawater for its drinking water, and Tampa Bay Water works with the community to protect those sources. Mini-grant projects are ideal opportunities for scouts to earn merit badges, students to fulfill volunteer hour requirements, and service clubs and organizations to get involved in supporting public health and safety. The projects are also great for educators looking to combine STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts and lessons with hands-on experience to supplement classroom learning.

To qualify for a grant, applicants should submit an event or project plan related to source water protection in Tampa Bay Water’s service area that includes Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

Here's how to apply:

  • Download an application at tampabaywater.org/grant
  • Provide a plan for events or projects such as river cleanups, litter prevention projects, public education campaigns and conservation outreach events in Tampa Bay Water’s service area.
  • Submit applications by Nov. 15, 2018, at 5 p.m.

All applications will be reviewed and screened against the program’s selection criteria. Organizations receiving a mini-grant will be notified in December 2018 and funds will be granted in 2019.

Now you can take your boater safety exam online

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FWC now allows online providers to offer boating safety exam

Access to Florida’s Boater Education Temporary Certificate Program has been expanded, thanks to work done by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to make allowances for online course providers to offer the required courses over the internet.

In August of 2017, the FWC amended Florida Administrative Code 68D-36.108 to allow the temporary certificate exam to be offered in an online version. This change makes it easier and more convenient for both vessel operators and vessel liveries to comply with Florida’s boater education laws, which require liveries to verify that customers born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, have met Florida’s boating safety education requirements before allowing them to rent their vessels.

Online temporary certificate exam providers will create a system that allows 24-hour, seven-day a week accessibility to the exam using tablets, laptops, or other electronic devices. This added convenience will make it easier for both visitors and residents by allowing them to take the test before a vacation to Florida.

Currently, one online boating safety education provider, Boat Ed, has completed the process to offer the exam online. Boat Ed has been a leader and innovator in boating safety education since 1995. Study or learning materials are available on the Boat Ed site to prepare students for the exam, improve their boating knowledge and increase their chances of successfully completing the exam on the first try. The exam costs $3 and study materials are available for an additional charge. A link to the exam can be found at Boat‑Ed.com/FloridaRental/.

Prior to this change, paper exams were the only option and were required to be completed and passed by rental vessel operators. The ability for liveries to continue to offer paper exams has not changed with the addition of this online option. Liveries can still purchase and administer the paper exams, as long as their contract and insurance are valid.

The temporary certificate exam is a knowledge check, not a full education course. It cannot be converted into a boater safety identification card that is valid for life. Temporary certificates are not valid in any other state and do not meet boater safety education requirements in other states.

The online exam will be 25 questions, randomly selected from a large pool of questions. The cost for the exam will remain $3. Upon successful completion of the exam, students will be provided an electronic proof of their successful completion and their passing score. A livery will be able to inspect this proof to ensure that a prospective vessel renter has met Florida’s boating safety education requirements.

The new change offers various benefits to liveries:

  • Liveries are not required to contract with any other company to use the online exam.
  • A link that will send customers directly to the online exam can be provided by liveries.
  • Liveries are not required to continue purchasing paper exams from the FWC.
  • The burden of mailing paper tests back to the FWC is removed with the online option.
  • Liveries will be able to provide speedier service to customers who take the exam in advance of renting.

The FWC encourages liveries to transition to the new online exam system to increase accessibility and streamline the testing process for renters interested in enjoying Florida’s beautiful waterways by boat.

Pinellas Trail bridge crossing Boca Ciega Bay temporarily closed starting Sept. 10th

Beginning Monday, Sept. 10, the bridge portion of the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail that crosses Boca Ciega Bay along the north side of Bay Pines Boulevard in St. Petersburg will be closed. The trail closure is due to a scheduled reclaimed water main repair project.

The reclaimed water main runs alongside the trail bridge across Boca Ciega Bay. The repair work is located mid-way along the bridge and will require the use of a crane, effectively closing the entire bridge while the repair work is underway.

Trail users will be provided a map at the trail closure locations to aid them in navigating around the closure; however, there are no established detours around the closure.

The repair work and closure is scheduled to take two weeks. The county expects to reopen the trail on Friday, Sept. 21.