Water-Related News

New Pinellas County web page provides status updates for red tide

In a continuing effort to practice superior environmental stewardship and to provide information to the public, Pinellas County Environmental Management is providing daily status updates about Pinellas County’s red tide testing locations via Pinellas County’s red tide web page. The public can visit www.pinellascounty.org/environment/watershed/red-tide.htm to learn about red tide and to view the latest status reports for Pinellas County.

The current red tide status update for Pinellas County shows red tide concentrations ranging from not present and background to low levels.

County staff collect water samples on a routine basis to check water quality. With reports of red tide impacting surrounding counties, staff has increased collections and testing. The red tide status update reports are posted on the web page, and explain when sampling has taken place and detail the results.

The Pinellas County red tide web page also offers links to resources about red tide provided by the University of South Florida, NOAA, Mote Marine Laboratory, the Florida Department of Health and Florida Wildlife Commission.

Red tide is a naturally-occurring algal bloom that can be harmful to wildlife and individuals who come into contact with waters where red tide is present.

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.

Nelson, Rubio call for passage of WRDA bill to address algae crisis

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio have called on Senate leaders to immediately take up and pass legislation aimed at helping mitigate the toxic algae blooms that are plaguing South Florida.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Nelson and Rubio urged the leaders to bring this year’s Water Resources Development Act – which includes funding for a massive reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee designed to store and clean some of the water being released from the lake before it goes into the nearby waterways – to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible.

“The EAA Storage Reservoir is a critical piece of the puzzle for ending Lake Okeechobee discharges and the harmful algal blooms they help fuel,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to bring the WRDA bill to the Senate floor as soon as possible so that we can advance this key project.”

Nelson, who has been pushing his colleagues to approve the funding needed for the massive reservoir project known as the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), was able to get the project included in this year’s WRDA bill. Shortly after he and Rubio sent their letter to Senate leaders, Nelson took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to pass the bill as soon as possible.

“Right now, in Florida, we are facing a massive environmental and economic crisis,” Nelson said. “If we don’t act soon, I’m afraid there won’t be much of an environment in South Florida left to save. I urge the majority leader to schedule a vote on the WRDA bill as soon as possible, and I urge my colleagues to support the water resources bill when it comes to the floor of the Senate.”

Florida Sea Grant’s Karl Havens on the causes of red tide

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What is causing Florida's algae crisis?

Editor’s note: Two large-scale algae outbreaks in Florida are killing fish and threatening public health. Along the southwest coast, one of the longest-lasting red tide outbreaks in the state’s history is affecting more than 100 miles of beaches. Meanwhile, blue-green algae blooms are occurring in estuaries on both coasts. Karl Havens, a University of Florida professor and director of the Florida Sea Grant Program, explains what’s driving this two-pronged disaster.

What’s the difference between red tide and blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are called cyanobacteria. Some species of cyanobacteria occur in the ocean, but blooms — extremely high levels that create green surface scums of algae — happen mainly in lakes and rivers, where salinity is low.

Red tides are caused by a type of algae called a dinoflagellate, which also is ubiquitous in lakes, rivers, estuaries and the oceans. But the particular species that causes red tide blooms, which can make water look blood red, occur only in saltwater.

What causes these blooms?

Blooms occur where waters have high concentrations of nutrients — in particular, nitrogen and phosphorus. In Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, very high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are washing into the water from agricultural lands, leaky septic systems and fertilizer runoff.

Red tides form offshore. When ocean currents carry a red tide to the shore it can intensify, especially where there are abundant nutrients to fuel algae growth. This year, after heavy spring rains and because of discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee, river runoff in southwest Florida brought a large amount of nutrients into near-shore waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which fueled the large red tide.

Report outlines Florida’s major environmental concerns

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Spoiler alert: Three of the six are about water

A coalition of environmental and other organizations is distributing a sternly worded report to all candidates in Florida for federal and state offices about worsening threats to the state’s natural resources.

On Wednesday, the alliance publicly released “Trouble in Paradise,” an initiative started by Nathaniel Pryor Reed, a conservationist and co-founder of 1,000 Friends of Florida who died recently.

“Tragically, he did not live to see this report to fruition,” Paul Owens, president of 1,000 Friends of Florida, said during a media conference.

To complete Reed’s final initiative, the 1,000 Friends organization partnered with Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Florida Springs Council, Florida Wildlife Corridor, Florida Wildlife Federation, the Howard T. Odom Florida Springs Institute and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

The result is a document intended to educate this state’s potential elected officials about what Owens calls “the greatest challenges facing Florida’s environment.”

Although the organizations are making sure paper or email editions of the report reach candidates in upcoming state and federal elections, Owens said they encourage voters to make sure contenders in local races are also aware of the findings and recommendations.

“These are critical issues at every level of government in Florida,” Owens said.

The study outlines six priorities that the partnership contends need urgent attention as well as specific geographic areas it considers especially endangered, including the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, the Indian River Lagoon, Apalachicola River and Bay and several natural springs.

Throughout the report, the authors call for enforcing environmental protections “already in place,” sufficiently funding agencies responsible for overseeing those duties, appointing “strong and effective” agency leaders and passing legislation “to restore and improve workable programs and address current and future challenges.”

Algae monitor sponsored by NASA installed in Lake Okeechobee

Satellite images tell us every few days how an algae bloom on Lake Okeechobee — the source of blooms in the St. Lucie River — has been growing and shrinking over the summer.

Now there's a device in the middle of the lake that will give us updates every hour.

On Thursday, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce installed a SeaPRISM on a platform in the middle of Lake Okeechobee.

The sensor developed by NASA can look into the lake every hour and, by the color of the water, determine how much blue-green algae it contains.

More:TCPalm's complete coverage of water issues

The idea is for real-time data from the SeaPRISM (Photometer Revision for Incident Surface Measurements) to be relayed to NASA and be available to researchers (and the public) on the agency's Aeronet website within a couple of hours.

The hourly data will help scientists figure out how algae blooms develop and why their size fluctuates from from week to week, month to month and year to year. That information will help them predict when algae will bloom in the lake, and that could help water managers prevent blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Mote Marine researchers racing against clock to study red tide

SARASOTA COUNTY - Researchers are racing against the clock to find solutions to this red tide crisis. For Dr. Tracy Fanara, the pressure has been relentless.

“I think that everybody feels a lot of pressure because this is a public health issue,” said Dr. Fanara.

She and her fellow researchers are in the thick of this crisis every day, and she constantly hears from people desperate for answers.

"It’s heartbreaking to hear how affected they are by this naturally occurring phenomenon and I want to find a way to protect them,” said Fanara.

It’s all hands on deck at Mote Marine Lab.

Scientists have been using interns, volunteers, even information from the public to respond to this crisis.

Researchers are employing a wide variety of tests. They're studying organisms that can eat red tide. Others are studying water treatment technologies, while fellow scientists are discovering how storms impact red tide.

They want to find out what's causing this algae bloom to intensify, and what kind of methods can stop it.

A hurricane may be only way to get rid of red tide, expert says

A major weather system could disperse and push the toxic bloom away from the shore.

SARASOTA — The invasion of toxic red tide on Southwest Florida beaches that has slaughtered marine life and sickened humans shows no signs of retreat anytime soon, experts say.

The killer menace, which has turned the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico into a soft-drink brown hue and transformed pristine white sand beaches into ghastly graveyards of rotting sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and whale sharks in recent weeks, doesn’t look like it will loosen its grip on the area, scientists say. There is a “but” in the grim forecast, said Vincent Lovko, a staff scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, an independent research institution in Sarasota that has studied Florida red tide for decades.

A major weather system — such as a hurricane — could potentially rid Southwest Florida of the persistent bloom, which began last October and killed an undetermined amount of marine life, while causing beachgoers to cough, sneeze and experience other respiratory or eye irritation. Sarasota County alone estimates it has removed more than 66 tons of decomposing fish from its beaches since Aug. 1, while the Town of Longboat Key estimates it has cleared 5.22 tons of decaying sea life from its shoreline.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports it has received complaints of respiratory irritation spanning from Manatee to Collier counties.

St. Pete City Council approves settlement in sewage spill lawsuit

Thursday afternoon [8/9/2018] at St. Petersburg City Hall, City Council voted to settle a lawsuit with the environmental organizations that sued the city in the wake of the city’s well-documented sewage crisis. The settlement will conclude a saga that began in 2015, when the city released up to one billion gallons of sewage – up to 200 million of which were dumped into Tampa Bay.

All City Council members in attendance voted unanimously to approve the settlement. Council members Charlie Gerdes, Ed Montanari, Darden Rice, Steve Kornell, Gina Driscoll and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman all voted to approve. Council members Brandi Gabbard and Amy Foster were absent.

Suncoast Waterkeeper, Our Children’s Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation sued the city in December 2016. No city employees faced criminal charges for their role in the sewage crisis.

According to the settlement, the city will donate $200,000 to the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and build a $7.5-million wet weather force main and lift station, among other things.

Attorney Doug Manson spoke extensively on behalf of Manson Bolves Donaldson Varn, the law firm representing the city in the lawsuit.

Manson explained that his firm and the environmental organizations had more commonality than they did differences, and they were able to meet the requests of the environmental organizations.

Another aspect of the settlement is adhering to the city’s Integrated Water Resources Master Plan, a holistic master plan for every kind of water use in the city. One component of that plan is the Sewer System Asset Management Plan (SSAMP), a plan that, according to Manson, shortens the timeframe within which the city must operate and maintain its publicly-owned treatment works.

Fishery biologist to talk red tide

Ryan Rindone will speak at Salt Pines on Aug. 14th, from 6 to 8 pm

The Red Tide algae bloom outbreak that now rapidly spreads along the Gulf Coast has turned into a major concern for environmentalists.

With the lingering bloom reaching Anna Maria Island last week, leaving dead fish covering the beach, many wonder if Tampa Bay is next? A report on Sunday noted some dead crabs and fish had washed up on shore near Bayshore Boulevard and Bay to Bay Boulevard.

As concerns about Red Tide grow, Salt Pines will host Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council biologist Ryan Rindone to discuss its impact on Florida’s waters, animals and people on Tuesday (Aug 14) from 6 to 8 p.m. The Hyde Park Village sporting life clothing store is located at 1503 W Swann Ave.

Rindone could not say whether it will reach Tampa since Red Tide can bloom in any body of salt water, but he aims to educate residents in case they are faced with it.

"It doesn’t do any good to worry about it right now because we don’t know where it’s going to go, but we should be cautious about it" he said. "It’s possible the Red Tide can come up in Tampa Bay, but anywhere the water is too fresh like the Hillsborough River, we won’t see it there. If it’s going to appear, it’ll be off the beach before it moves out to the bay."

The bloom has moved steadily north over the past several weeks and could impact Pinellas County. It’s a rising worry for tourists and local beach lovers. Tampa’s tourist officials also are paying close attention.

Mote scientists to test new method to mitigate red tide

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Mote Marine Laboratory scientists will field-test a newly developed method for mitigating Florida red tide — elevated concentrations of toxic Karenia brevis algae — in the closed end of a canal in Boca Grande on Tuesday.

The method uses ozone to destroy the algae and its toxins inside a special system that releases no ozone into the environment and restores oxygen that is often deficient in Florida red tide areas, Mote said Thursday. The technology is designed for areas of limited size and tidal flow, such as dead-end canals and small embayments, where Florida red tide algae, their toxins, and resulting dead fish can accumulate.

The test is set for Tuesday morning and will be led by Mote Senior Scientist Richard Pierce.

Mote’s ozone treatment system was developed and patented, and is currently used, to remove Florida red tide cells and toxins from seawater entering Mote Aquarium and Mote’s animal hospitals on City Island in Sarasota.

Health advisories in place at three Hillsborough beaches for bacteria levels

TAMPA — There are health advisories is in place at Ben T Davis, Picnic Island and Simmonds Park beaches over a potential bacteria risk.

The Environmental Protection Agency said samples taken Wednesday were above the threshold for enterococci bacteria.

The advisory will be lifted when re-sampling shows the water is within satisfactory range. The EPA says they will re-sample Wednesday, August 15.

For more information, you can visit the Florida Department of Health's website for beach water quality.

Enterococci bacteria can usually found in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, according to the health department. In high concentrations, it can cause human diseases, infections or rashes. It can be an indication of fecal pollution from stormwater runoff, pets, wildlife and human sewage.

Visit the Healthy Beaches website for updates.

City of Largo nailing down final $60 million piece of sewer system overhaul

LARGO — For more than a decade, several projects have been in the works to overhaul the city’s wastewater plant in an effort to cut down on sanitary sewer overflows, accommodate population growth, replace deteriorated infrastructure and make discharged waste cleaner and safer.

City officials say the last of those long and expensive projects is moving forward as staff work to finalize its design and secure a $60.2 million loan from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Engineering Services Director Jerald Woloszynski said the biological treatment improvements project, which will provide upgrades to the portion of the plant where bacteria and enzymes break down sewage, has two main goals.

The first is to improve the plant’s ability to remove nitrogen from the waste stream discharged into Old Tampa Bay via Feather Sound.

Nitrogen and phosphorus can lead to harmful and expensive health and environmental conditions, such as algae blooms and fish kills, so the city has been under a DEP administrative order since 2012 to come up with a way to reduce the amount it discharges.

"If there was ever a project that we do here at the city that benefits the environment, this is the project to highlight," Woloszynski said. "Basically, we’re committed to reducing the nitrogen going into Tampa Bay."

The second goal is to replace or rehabilitate aging components of the facility, raise or harden portions of the treatment system that are susceptible to flood damage and storm surge, and enhance safety features for personnel.

Woloszynski said the improvements will be the final piece in fully restoring the plant, because the city is wrapping up the $25 million headworks project, which includes a 5 million-gallon holding tank, and the disinfection and influent pumping project, which includes upgrades to the pumping system and aims to ensure treated effluent meets water quality standards.

Mote Marine Laboratory is working to solve red tide riddles

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Communities affected by the current Florida red tide are asking great questions — in particular, what more can be done to address this challenging harmful algal bloom (HAB) and better protect public health and quality of life?

Mote Marine Laboratory — an independent research institution that has studied Florida red tide for decades in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and numerous other partners — is working hard to answer that question with multiple scientific studies advancing this summer.

For months, several southwest Florida communities have been experiencing effects from elevated concentrations of the Florida red tide algae, Karenia brevis, which have persisted in the Gulf of Mexico since November 2017. Toxins from the bloom have caused large-scale fish kills, sickened or killed some large marine species and caused beachgoers to cough, sneeze and experience other respiratory or eye irritation, sometimes causing them to avoid the affected shoreline areas.

These impacts drive Mote scientists to find solutions. Mote is advancing innovative research with the ultimate goals of: improved rapid assessment and modeling for HAB forecasting; prevention, control and mitigation of HAB impacts; public health protection; and expansion of local community outreach and engagement.

Join Mote scientists for a web video chat on Florida red tide research and response efforts. Details will be available on Mote’s website Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. The web chat is tentatively expected to take place later in that week. Please check here for updates and registration: https://mote.org/pages/red-tide-web-forum-august-2018

Here is how Mote is addressing Florida red tide, from essential and extensive monitoring efforts to new mitigation and control studies launched within the past few years.

Lingering Red Tide bloom moves north, killing fish near mouth of Tampa Bay

ANNA MARIA ISLAND — A Red Tide algae bloom that has already been called the worst in a decade spread north over the weekend, reaching this Manatee County community near the mouth of Tampa Bay.

On Monday, clumps of dead fish floated amid the mangroves lining the approach to the Cortez Road bridge to Anna Maria Island, southeast of Egmont Key. Meanwhile at Holmes Beach, another community on Anna Maria, the police appealed via Facebook for volunteers to help them clean up the dead sea life that was washing ashore, offering to provide "masks, gloves and a trash grabber ... to anyone who would like to help."

No one knows for sure when, or if, the bloom will reach Pinellas County’s famous beaches. The latest forecast from University of South Florida scientists appears to show the bloom moving north over the next four days — but also shows it being pushed back out to sea by wind and currents.

A blue-green algae bloom that has been plaguing Lake Okeechobee and the rivers on either side of it has made national news and become an issue in the state’s political races. But in the meantime, a lingering Red Tide outbreak along about 120 miles of the gulf coast has also been taking a a growing toll on both the state’s environment and its tourism economy.

The Red Tide bloom began back in November, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute spokeswoman Michelle Kerr. By hitting the nine-month mark, it’s now the longest Red Tide outbreak in a decade, she said. The longest one on record lasted 17 months between 2004 and 2006, she said.

Check out this online tool to see how sea level-rise will impact your flood risk

Here’s a fun online gadget for a sobering task:

FloodIQ.com is a web site created by the nonprofit First Street Foundation to help users visualize how rising sea levels are expected to affect your risk of flooding — not only now, but up to 15 years in the future.

And, yes, it gets worse.

With FloodIQ.com, the First Street Foundation created an interactive map for Florida showing flood risks from both tidal flooding and a Category 1 and Category 3 hurricane this year, in 2023, 2028 and 2033. The data comes from the United States Geologic Survey and county governments, historic tide gauge readings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, storm surge predictions from the National Weather Service and NOAA, sea level rise predictions from the United States Army Corps Of Engineers and property details from state and county government offices.

The result is that it’s easy to find your home or business and see what you might expect — a foot of flooding? 2 feet? more? — in various combinations of bad storms, high tides and deteriorating conditions.


Source: Tampa Bay Times.

Tampa Bay Estuary Program Mini-Grant webinar Aug. 22nd

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Do you have a great idea to protect and restore Tampa Bay? Now is your chance!

Bay Mini-Grants are a competitive awards program funded by sales of the Tampa Bay Estuary specialty license plate. Individual awards of up to $5,000 are available to community groups for projects that help to improve Tampa Bay.

This year, TBEP is also offering one additional award of up to $10,000 for a hands-on, waterfront habitat restoration project. Examples include shoreline plantings, installation of oyster domes, or the creation of a living shoreline. Project must involve community volunteers.

A free grant writing webinar will be offered on August 22, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. Please email Misty Cladas or call (727) 893-2765 for details and to sign up for the webinar.

The deadline to apply for a 2018-2019 TBEP Mini-Grant is Sept. 15th, 2018.

Find out what's new in the 2018-2019 Mini-Grants »

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Mini-Grant program is funded by sales of its specialty license plate "Tarpon Tag". Find out how to get yours here!

FEMA releases new preliminary flood maps

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) recently announced the release of updated, digital flood hazard maps that show the extent to which areas throughout the county are at risk for flooding. The new preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is based on updated coastal modeling and shows flood hazards more accurately than older maps.

The preliminary map is available to residents and businesses on the online Flood Map Information Service found at www.pinellascounty.org/flooding. Property owners in unincorporated Pinellas County can call the Flood Information Services hotline at (727) 464-8900 to ask questions and get answers about the new flood map. Property owners within municipal boundaries should call their city.

The newly released map is part of a large, multi-year coastal flood risk study effort to better identify, quantify and communicate the coastal flood hazards and associated risks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina, producing updated FIRMs. This effort is being undertaken as part of the FEMA Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning program.

For more information about flooding in Pinellas County and flood insurance, visit www.pinellascounty.org/flooding.

Public meeting to discuss Shell Key Preserve Management Plan

  • Public meeting to discuss Shell Key Preserve management plan will be held Aug. 15
  • Citizens will also see results of University of South Florida’s Inlet Management Study
  • View draft plan proposal here.

To fulfill the county’s strategic goal to preserve and manage environmental lands, beaches, parks and historical assets, Pinellas County will hold a public meeting to present the proposed update to the Shell Key Preserve Management Plan. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 15, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Tampa Bay Watch located at 3000 Pinellas Bayway South, Tierra Verde. The current management plan was adopted in 2007 to address public use of the land while providing protection for the wildlife and the overall environment of the area.

County staff will provide updates about the draft plan to the public. University of South Florida Geology professor Dr. Ping Wang will present the results of USF’s Inlet Management Study. His discussion will focus on the closure of the Shell Key northern pass and analysis of dredging alternatives.The proposed plan and management goals and objectives can be viewed at the link below.

Beached barge was parked offshore for beach erosion project

A 40-ton barge washed up on St. Pete Beach after early morning storms Monday

The Taylor family from Newcastle, England, rushed to the water after checking in at the Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach Monday afternoon.

A sign on the front desk had warned them about the rusty orange cargo carrier that was sitting on the beach right in front of the hotel. Tony Taylor, his wife and their son saw it immediately.

How could have they possibly missed it? It’s 200 feet long, 40 feet wide and 8 feet tall.

"It’s weird," 11-year-old Drew Taylor said, wrinkling his nose and pointing at the massive barge.

"It’s unfortunate," said 49-year-old Tony Taylor, looking down at his son. "But not too much. We can just walk a little further and enjoy the beach there."

The steel-plate carrier that weighs about 40 tons washed ashore sometime early Monday after a storm churned up waves of five to seven feet. The force of the waves broke ropes holding two barges together offshore. One of them floated toward the beach, grounding in the shallow surf and creating opportunities for a different kind of postcard.

Seven barges float off St. Pete Beach currently, and they’re mainly full of rocks. They belong to Luhr Bros, Inc., an Illinois-based company that the state of Florida contracted to stop beach erosion, said Tony Miller, a barge hand and security guard.

The Luhr Bros. project employs a crew of nine men, including crane operators, boat pilots and engineers. The workers have been arriving at the beach at about 5:30 a.m. every day since May to get the machinery running.

When the sun rises at about 6:30 a.m., they begin lifting rocks of different sizes and shapes, and positioning them to create a barrier. Their goal is to trap sand and keep it from washing away.