Water-Related News

Stage 1 water shortage calls for conservation measures

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CLEARWATER – Tampa Bay Water has sufficient drinking water supplies to serve the region; however, the Tampa Bay region is now in a Stage 1 water shortage due to below-average regional rainfall on a 12-month rolling average. The Stage 1 shortage is declared under the regional Water Shortage Mitigation Plan, Tampa Bay Water’s supply management plan to proactively mitigate water supply shortages driven by prolonged, below-normal hydrologic conditions.

The region enters a Stage 1 water shortage when the rainfall deficit is more than 5 inches. Regional rainfall totals averaged 8.3 inches below normal over the past 12 months.

Tampa Bay Water’s diverse water supply system is built to withstand dry conditions with the use of the regional reservoir and seawater desalination plant. Tampa Bay Water’s C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir, the region’s water savings account, is nearly full at 14 billion gallons of its 15.5-billion-gallon capacity, which will help maintain water supply to the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant. The Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant, the region’s drought-proof water supply, is expected to deliver water beginning in November.

It's important to take proactive measures in a Stage 1 water shortage and residents can help by conserving water during these drier than normal conditions. Regional water supply demands in September averaged 208.5 million gallons per day (mgd), 7.45 mgd higher than August 2023 average demand mostly due to outdoor watering.

Regional watering restrictions are set by the Southwest Florida Water Management District; however, local utilities may set more stringent watering restrictions. Residents and businesses in the Tampa Bay region should follow their local watering restrictions and only water when needed and allowed.

Visit the link below for some easy ways to save water.

Pinellas County opens new, improved Bay Pier at Fort De Soto Park

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Pinellas County Parks & Conservation Resources officially reopened Bay Pier at Fort De Soto Park with a ribbon cutting Thursday following completion of the Penny for Pinellas-funded Fort De Soto Bay Pier Replacement project.

The County removed the previous pier last year due to deterioration and constructed a new pier in the same location using concrete pilings, concrete beams and a concrete deck. The new pier includes a shade structure at the top of the ramp to the dock for the Egmont Key Ferry, low-level deck lighting along the pier with special pole lighting at the waterward end, and fish-cleaning stations.

The Penny for Pinellas provided $4,764,300 in construction costs, and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provided $1 million for the project’s environmental assessment and design.

To learn more about the Fort De Soto Bay Pier Replacement project, visit https://pinellas.gov/baypier.

SJRWMD, SWFWMD propose new groundwater model, solicit public comment

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New model to benefit Districts’ joint work

As part of their ongoing work to ensure a sustainable water supply and protect water resources, the St. Johns River and Southwest Florida water management districts are jointly developing a new groundwater model. Known as the Central Springs Model, this tool is being designed to quantify the effects of current and future groundwater withdrawals on the water resources within north-central Florida.

The districts use models in their regulatory work, to help determine minimum flows and levels (MFLs) to preserve the health of water bodies, to warn about potential impacts from project construction and for water supply planning. The models depend on new and historical data, valuable details collected by district teams engaged in ambient monitoring throughout their jurisdictions. Models are designed to answer specific questions and once the question is identified, the pertinent data are gathered, converted to the proper data type/format for use by the computer model, compared against known factors to ensure accuracy, peer reviewed by outside experts, and simulated to provide an answer. Huge volumes of information are entered into already rigorously tested and proven models to customize each model for the region’s unique environmental and geological features.

As part of the development process, the districts seek public comment prior to adopting a new model. A draft version of the Central Springs Model is expected to be complete and ready for review in October. Once released for review, the districts will accept comments on the draft Central Springs Model through 5 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2023. Stakeholders may submit comments using an online comment tool or via email. Additional information and draft documents will be posted to this page.

Once adopted, the Central Springs Model will replace the Northern District Model (NDM) and the Volusia Model for water supply planning, MFLs development and consumptive use permitting within the St. Johns District. In the Southwest Florida District, the Central Springs Model will be used for MFL development and groundwater evaluations previously performed with the NDM for larger quantity permits to assess potential adverse impacts to springs.

To receive notifications on activities related to the Central Springs Model, email your name and affiliation (if applicable) to CentralSpringsModel@sjrwmd.com.

The map below shows the Central Springs/East Coast Regional Water Supply Planning area and the coverage of the new groundwater model.

Skyway Fishing Pier online educational course, certificate required beginning Oct. 1

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Planning to fish at Skyway Fishing Pier State Park soon? New regulations go into effect beginning Oct. 1, including a no-cost annual educational course requirement and gear restrictions that apply to all anglers fishing in the park.

The Skyway Fishing Pier educational course is now available online. To access the educational course, which must be completed before fishing in the park, visit MyFWC.com/Skyway. The Certificate of Course Completion is required to fish at Skyway Fishing Pier State Park and must be renewed annually, including those 65 and older who are normally exempt from needing a fishing license.

Those under 16 are not required to take the educational course as long as they are accompanied by an adult or guardian who has completed the course and received a certificate in the past year.

Other Regulations

Starting Oct. 1, the following changes will also be in effect at Skyway Fishing Pier State Park:

  • The use of the following gear from Nov. 15 – March 15 each year is prohibited:
    • Fishing rigs with more than one hook attached (e.g., sabiki rig, chicken rig, topwater plug).
    • Any multiple hook (e.g., treble hook, double hook).
  • Anglers are limited to use of no more than two sets of hook-and-line fishing gear (e.g., rods or handlines).

These regulations are designed to reduce the likelihood and severity of seabird entanglement and further seabird conservation at Skyway Fishing Pier.

For more, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Skyway Fishing Pier State Park.”

Skyway Educational Course Instructions

  1. Go to MyFWC.com/Skyway.
  2. Click on the eLearning Course link.
  3. If you do not already have a user profile, you will need to create a new account by providing your first and last name, email address and login credentials.
  4. After logging in or creating your account, select “Skyway Fishing Pier Educational Course” from the list of courses.
  5. View all four educational modules.
  6. Take the 10-question quiz and pass with 100% correct.
  7. Receive Certificate of Completion with unique course completion code.

Native Florida plants could be part of the solution to state's flooding, water quality problems

Researchers at Stetson University have received one million dollars from the National Science Foundation to help stop flooding and improve water quality in Cape Canaveral.

The City of Cape Canaveral, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Stetson University, along with city and county partners are working on the flooding solution.

Stetson researcher Jason Evans says that includes designing and building special channels called bioswales in Cape Canaveral’s Veterans Memorial Park.

Evans said these channels help to redirect stormwater that would cause flooding.

“We're going to plant it with native plants, with water-friendly plants. So it's going to be really beautiful," said Evans. "But it's designed to store and to treat a lot of the stormwater that otherwise is running down the street and would go off into the lagoon.”

Citizen volunteers and Stetson undergraduates will help monitor their progress.

“We're gonna have some planting days where we're going to plant native plants, and so the citizens can be involved in those activities," said Evans. "And then we're gonna have workshops just to kind of explain, hopefully, in layman's terms, what we're doing and why we're doing it and why it's important.”

Evans says if all goes well, the bioswales should help clean up the Indian River Lagoon, and could be implemented in other areas of the state where the threat of coastal flooding is high.

The lagoon has faced several challenges in the last few years including algal blooms, brown tides, and manatee die-offs.

Florida looks to increase number of wetland mitigation banks, credits available to developers

The state has 131 wetlands mitigation banks available today.

Mitigation credits for wetlands, while still controversial among conservationists, remain a high-demand service in Florida. Meanwhile, the state only has so much space in existing banks.

Water quality officials told Florida lawmakers they intend to open another 30 sites on top of the 131 mitigation banks already in operation in Florida. Mitigation banks today cover almost 227,500 acres of land around the state.

“The bankers are out there hustling,” said Christine Wentzel, a regulatory manager for the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Developers under Florida law may offset the impacts of projects on wetlands by buying and maintaining areas near wetlands that can be restored to serve the same ecological purpose. In a presentation to the House Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee, Wentzel discussed how credits are calculated and defended the value of the program to the state’s ecology.

The state looks to grow the available number of mitigation banks as state and federal environmental officials navigate a changing legal environment. The U.S. Supreme Court in May issued a ruling governing what waters fall under the full legal purview of the United States.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency last month issued new guidelines based on that, but officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) remain in communication about jurisdictional matters.

Treasure Island to close Sunset Beach for emergency dune restoration project

Beachgoers should expect closures to last for at least a month.

Treasure Island has announced closures along Sunset Beach while the city works to restore badly damaged dunes after Hurricane Idalia.

An ongoing battle between Pinellas County and the Army Corps of Engineers over perpetual easement agreements halted beach renourishment projects in Sand Key, Treasure Island and Long Key.

Last week, county officials found renewed optimism about funding the full cost of restoring eroded beaches, bolstered by a new analysis from county staff.

Now, the city of Treasure Island and the county are moving ahead to restore portions of Sunset Beach.

Closures will begin Wednesday [Sept. 21st] for emergency beach dune restoration south of Caddy’s, 9000 West Gulf Blvd.

Pinellas County to hold public meeting about Anchoring Limitation Areas

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The Public Works Department of Pinellas County, Florida announces a public meeting pertaining to Anchoring Limitation Areas in Pinellas County to which all persons are invited.

Meeting Details

Date and Time: Oct. 17, 2023 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time

Location for In-Person Attendance:

County Communications Department Building
Palm Room
333 Chestnut Street
Clearwater, FL 33756

Members of the public wishing to address the Board in person are encouraged to preregister at Comment.Pinellas.gov. Preregistration is encouraged but not required. Those who have not preregistered may register when they arrive.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, any person requiring special accommodations to participate in this meeting is asked to advise Pinellas County at least five days before the meeting by contacting the Executive Assistant in Public Works at 727-464-3829.

Virtual Meeting Details

This public meeting will be live streamed at:

  • Pinellas County YouTube Channel, and
  • Pinellas County Connection Television PCC-TV.

It will be broadcast on Pinellas County cable public access channels:

  • Spectrum Channel 637
  •  Frontier Channel 44
  • WOW! Channel 18

Zoom Meeting Details

Members of the public wishing to address the Board via Zoom or by phone are required to preregister by 5 p.m. on Monday Oct. 16, 2023, by visiting Comment.Pinellas.gov. Those who cannot access the registration form via the internet may call 727-464-3000 to request assistance preregistering.

Members of the public who have preregistered may attend the meeting via Zoom by visiting Pinellas.gov/attend or by calling the Zoom webinar at one of the following numbers: 1-646-558-8656; or 1-312-626-6799; or 1-301-715-8592; or 1-346-248-7799; or 1-720-707-2699; or 1-253-215-8782. The Webinar ID number is 238 247 671. There is no guarantee against technology failures.

Providing Comments in Advance

Members of the public wishing to provide comments in advance may call the Agenda Comment Line at 727-464-4400 or complete the online comment form at Pinellas.gov/bccagendacomment. Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday Oct. 16, 2023.

Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may provide public input on any agenda item through use of the State of Florida’s relay service at 7-1-1.

Meeting Participation Information

Find information about participating in a Board of County Commissioners Meeting.

General Subject Matter to Be Considered

This is a meeting of the Public Works Department of Pinellas County, Florida pertaining to Anchoring Limitation Areas in Pinellas County, Creating County Ordinance 23-XX of the Pinellas County Code of Ordinances (“Code”), establishing anchoring limitation areas within certain areas in Clearwater, Florida; and providing for severability, inclusion in the code, and an effective date.

The Ordinance can be inspected at the Pinellas County Board Records Department, which is located 315 Court Street, Fifth Floor, Clearwater, Florida, 33756. The Ordinance will also be posted at the Pinellas County calendar before the meeting. There may be modifications to the Ordinance made at the hearing.

For More Information

Contact the Pinellas County Executive Assistant in Public Works office at 727-464-3829 or kbaker@pinellas.gov.

Treasure Island to undergo emergency beach dune restoration following Hurricane Idalia

TREASURE ISLAND – Officials are undertaking an emergency beach dune restoration following the damage from Hurricane Idalia.

“The project is not a beach renourishment, which is on hold by the Army Corp of Engineers,” the city said in a press release.

Pinellas County and the City of Treasure Island are tackling the project in the area between the Tern parking lot and Beach Pavilion on the south end of Sunset Beach at 8000 West Gulf Boulevard and 9940 Gulf Boulevard.

Officials are asking owners to sign temporary construction easements, which require notarization in front of two witnesses, by Wednesday, Sept. 20 so the project can begin.

The three-year easement is for access and dune restoration for properties that are 20 feet east of the Coastal Construction Control Line.

Pinellas County is working on an emergency beach restoration project

Pinellas County wants to shore up beaches that were heavily eroded by Hurricane Idalia. But county officials say this is not intended to replace the stalled beach renourishment project.

The county is in the process of developing an emergency plan to protect shorelines that were most impacted by the hurricane. This could include reconstructing dunes or temporarily moving sand to areas that were washed away in the storm.

Pinellas spokesman Tony Fabrizio said they're going to focus on the hardest-hit areas, including Sunset Beach and Treasure Island.

"Those measures could include temporary erosion control structures and dunes," he said. "And the county is cautioning property owners and residents to not do their own work or hire a contractor. Some of these contractors have actually gone out and solicited work. Because this really requires in many cases federal, state and/or local permitting."

He said this is not intended to replace the proposed beach renourishment project, which is on hold as federal environmental regulators are requiring every beachfront land owner to sign a property easement.

Biden administration restores the power of states and tribes to review projects to protect waterways

States and Native American tribes will have greater authority to block energy projects such as natural gas pipelines that could pollute rivers and streams under a final rule issued Thursday by the Biden administration.

The rule, which takes effect in November, reverses a Trump-era action that limited the ability of states and tribes to review pipelines, dams and other federally regulated projects within their borders. The Environmental Protection Agency says the new regulation will empower local authorities to protect rivers and streams while supporting infrastructure projects that create jobs.

“We actually think this is going to be great for the country,” said Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for water. “It’s going to allow us to balance the Biden administration goals of protecting our water resources and also supporting all kinds of infrastructure projects that this nation so desperately needs.”

But Fox acknowledged at a briefing that the water rule will be significantly slimmed down from an earlier proposal because of a Supreme Court ruling that weakened regulations protecting millions of acres of wetlands. That ruling, in a case known as Sackett v. EPA, sharply limited the federal government’s jurisdiction over wetlands, requiring that wetlands be more clearly connected to other waters such as oceans and rivers. Environmental advocates said the May decision would strip protections from tens of millions of acres of wetlands.

Researchers: Coastal ecosystems will drown if world warms above 2°C

After studying more than 1,500 coastal ecosystems, researchers say they will drown if we let the world warm above 2°C

Much of the world's natural coastline is protected by living habitats, most notably mangroves in warmer waters and tidal marshes closer to the poles. These ecosystems support fisheries and wildlife, absorb the impact of crashing waves and clean up pollutants. But these vital services are threatened by global warming and rising sea levels.

Recent research has shown wetlands can respond to sea level rise by building up their root systems, pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process. Growing recognition of the potential for this "blue" carbon sequestration is driving mangrove and tidal marsh restoration projects.

While the resilience of these ecosystems is impressive, it is not without limits. Defining the upper limits to mangrove and marsh resilience under accelerating sea level rise is a topic of great interest and considerable debate.

Our new research, published in the journal Nature, analyzes the vulnerability and exposure of mangroves, marshes and coral islands to sea level rise. The results underscore the critical importance of keeping global warming within 2 degrees of the pre-industrial baseline.

A USF professor’s photos show Idalia’s devastating effects on Pinellas beaches

Ping Wang, a professor in the USF School of Geosciences, said renourishing the beaches is expensive. But it's more than just aesthetics.

Hurricane Idalia may have made landfall in Florida's Big Bend region, but its impact has been felt along Pinellas County beaches.

Storm surge caused by the Category 3 storm resulted in significant damage to the beaches, and now officials are determining how to restore them amid a dispute over property rights.

Ping Wang is a professor in the University of South Florida School of Geosciences who specializes in coastal research.

He discussed the efforts Tuesday on the radio program "Florida Matters".

He said renourishing the beaches is expensive. But as he points out, it's more than just aesthetics.

He also provided before-and-after photos that show the widespread destruction to shorelines across Pinellas County.

Mote Marine Lab hosts workshop on red tide mitigation tools

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Mote hosts workshop to discuss deployment of mitigation tools for Florida red tide

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium recently invited researchers from around the world to discuss mitigation tools and technologies for the harmful algal bloom (HAB) that affects many communities across the state – Florida red tide – as part of its Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative.

Mote hosted the workshop where Florida red tide mitigation scientists, engineers, and government agencies, gathered to review the current research being developed, discuss options for deployment technologies, understand the regulatory steps and agencies involved, and plan for intellectual property and commercialization issues that may arise.

Red tides are caused by higher-than-normal concentrations of Karenia brevis (microscopic algae native to the Gulf of Mexico), often discoloring the water in the ocean and coastal waters of southwest Florida. K. brevis produces toxins that can harm sea life, lead to massive fish kills, and cause respiratory irritation in people. Florida red tides can also have detrimental effects on shellfish, fishing and tourism industries.

The Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative, a partnership between Mote and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), was established by the Florida Legislature and signed by Governor DeSantis in 2019 to establish an independent and coordinated effort among public and private research entities to develop prevention, control and mitigation technologies that will decrease the impacts of Florida red tide on the environment, economy and quality of life in Florida.

"With support from the State of Florida for this initiative, researchers are empowered to present their solutions and collaborate through applied science and engineering to fight red tide while stimulating Florida’s economy through technology transfer that helps transform ecological challenge to economic opportunity,” said Mote President and CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “This cross-disciplinary team effort across many institutions is key to developing innovation solutions for communities acro

Tampa Bay Estuary Program solicits proposals for new, innovative ways to assess Old Tampa Bay

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The Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP), in cooperation with the Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium (TBNMC), is advertising a revised request for proposals to assess the nutrient assimilative capacity of Old Tampa Bay. Recurring summertime blooms of the harmful alga Pyrodinium bahamense, combined with hydrologic alterations and changes in temperature, rainfall, sea level, and salinity, may be affecting the ability of Old Tampa Bay to receive and process external and internal nutrient loads. Technical assistance is required for the following tasks:

  1. Evaluate Existing Management Paradigm and Propose Alternatives
  2. Evaluate Eutrophication Indicator Targets, Thresholds, and Numeric Nutrient Criteria and Propose Adjustments
  3. Management Intervention Assessment and Recommendations
  4. Re-Evaluate Existing Nitrogen Allocations in Old Tampa Bay

Up to $320,000 may be made available to support this work. The anticipated project duration is 12 months. Questions are due by September 18 and there will be a Q&A webinar on September 22. Full proposals are due by October 27th.

Visit the link below to view the RFP or ask TBEP staff a question about the work.

Red tide sets manatee deaths along Florida’s west coast apart, experts say

Water quality and seagrass health play a big role in marine mammals’ survival anywhere in the state.

Red tide in the water and in the air contribute to manatee deaths on Florida’s west coast, setting the region’s waterways apart from other troubled areas of manatee mortality in Florida, researchers say.

In the long run, the loss of seagrass connects both coasts’ investigations into the marine mammals’ well-being, but, according to Dr. Thomas K. Frazer, dean and professor in the University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences, the reasons behind the decline in water quality can often be linked to different factors.

“The last several years have been very difficult for manatees, for a variety of reasons. Particularly on the east coast, and similarly, maybe to a lesser degree, on the west coast,” he said.

Seagrasses, which flourish in shallow water, are the bedrock of coastal marine life. They filter pollutants, act as a nursery to marine life and offer manatees and sea turtles their main food source.

Seagrasses also serve as a canary in the coal mine, their health and vitality an indicator of potential problems. Starting in 2016, seagrass numbers have generally declined around the state and specifically in Sarasota Bay; a warning of the decline of the delicate ecosystems along the Gulf of Mexico.

“One of the reasons why we’ve lost so many manatees in the last two and a half years is from starvation. Not boat strikes, but starving to death, due to the lapse in water quality in (Sarasota Bay), which affects their food source,” said Dr. Dave Tomasko, director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, adding the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast is the epicenter for seagrass loss and manatee deaths.

“It might be as high as 30 to 50 percent of the east coast manatee population basically starved to death in the last two and a half years,” said Tomasko.

Beachfront property owners and Army Corps remain at impasse over beach renourishment

Scores of beachfront property owners flooded into a town hall Friday on beach renourishment hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers in Indian Shores. But they didn't hear anything different from what they've been told for several years.

At issue is the Army Corps' recent decision to require every beachfront property owner to sign over an easement for access for any renourishment projects. The need has become critical for some beaches that were severely eroded by Hurricane Idalia.

But Col. James Booth, district commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, says they don't plan to waver from requiring permanent easements. He says since public tax dollars would be used for the projects, the public should have access to any renourished beach.

"The federal interest in protecting the infrastructure behind it, it does come with a requirement by law that says that I can't - as a federal agency - spend money to protect private property," Booth said. "And that's where we go to requiring these perpetual easements, so that we can come in and do the restoration on these projects after the storms have the impacts that we know they have on them."

And Booth said none of the projects proposed for Pinellas can go through without all the property owners agreeing to an easement. He said this is not impossible - it's been done recently for renourishment projects in Brevard and Flagler counties.

“Decline of Seagrasses in Tampa Bay” Story Map released by TBRPC

Seagrass meadows are thought to have covered 76,000 acres of Tampa Bay before the 1930s. 2018 marked a turning point in seagrass coverage and was the first year since 1988 where acreage declined. Since 2018, Tampa Bay has lost more than 30% of seagrass coverage.

Seagrasses are extremely vital for a healthy bay. They support thousands of marine species, store carbon, improve water quality, protect coastlines, cycle nutrients, and create habitat corridors between coral reefs and mangroves.

View Storymap »

Hurricane Idalia caused widespread pollution in Florida’s waterways

Wastewater, fuel and chemicals spilled in several parts of the state as the massive storm caused extensive flooding.

While Hurricane Idalia ravaged Florida’s Big Bend region, rain and wind from the massive storm also caused wastewater leaks, chemical dumps and fuel spills in Tampa Bay and other storm-struck parts of the state.

At least 26,000 gallons of wastewater spills, mostly raw sewage, were reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as of Friday.

In each instance, the flooding was so severe that officials said it’s not possible to tell exactly how much wastewater was released. Instead, estimates were provided.

In Tampa Bay and neighboring tributaries like the Manatee River and Boca Ciega Bay, winds and high seas toppled boats, sending their gasoline into the waters below. Hurricane Idalia’s floodwaters are also being blamed for a kerosene leak that sent flammable liquid into a St. Petersburg mobile home park.

The early snapshot of Idalia’s environmental impacts, gleaned from state and federal pollution reports, underscores the typical reality following a major hurricane’s landfall: Waterways under the storm’s crosshairs get stirred with human sewage, gas and whatever else may have mixed with storm surge.

Flesh-eating bacteria lurk in post-hurricane floodwaters. Here’s how to stay safe.

Cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection tend to rise after hurricanes mix fresh rainwater with salty seawater.

In the wake of Hurricane Idalia, health officials warned of a invisible threat in the lingering floodwaters: Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.

The warning comes as serious infections from the bacteria are on the rise, tied to warming coastal waters. On Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control issued an alert to health care providers to consider Vibrio as a possible cause of infected wounds, noting several severe and fatal cases in Connecticut, New York and North Carolina.

The rare and potentially deadly type of flesh-eating bacterium "shouldn't be taken lightly," Florida Health Department press secretary Jae Williams said. "It needs to be treated with proper respect — the same way we respect alligators and rattlesnakes."

Florida health officials started alerting residents of the potential for such bacterial infections "as soon as the state of emergency was declared," Williams said, referring to Hurricane Idalia.

Coastal areas of the state, as well as Georgia and the Carolinas, where Idalia's surges left behind standing water, were most at risk for Vibrio bacteria.

NASA scientists test new tool for tracking algal blooms

Harmful algae can endanger public health and coastal ecosystems and economies. Advances in satellite imaging are providing new ways to look at our living ocean.

By the time they were over, a series of massive algal blooms along the west coast of Florida in 2020 would be linked to some 2,000 tons of dead marine life around Tampa Bay. The human costs were stark, too, including a double-digit increase in asthma cases in Sarasota and Pinellas counties, and estimated losses of around $1 billion across economic sectors from tourism to fisheries.

Earth-orbiting satellites have been used for decades to detect algal blooms from space, enabling more frequent observations over broader areas than is possible by directly sampling the water. The most common observing technique relies on the visible spectrum to measure ocean color. However, this approach has been mostly restricted to clear sky conditions.

A recent study, led by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, has shown how one space-based instrument called TROPOMI, or TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument, was able to peer through thin clouds to uncover powerful clues about Karenia brevis (or K. brevis), the microscopic algae responsible for the 2020 blooms. TROPOMI’s enhanced ability to “see” and measure fine wavelengths of light could potentially help federal agencies and local communities better forecast and manage harmful outbreaks. (TROPOMI flies aboard the European Sentinel 5P spacecraft, which was launched in 2017.)

The scientists examined the West Florida Shelf, a stretch of continental crust arcing from the Panhandle to the Keys. From its origins in other parts of the Gulf of Mexico, K. brevis is carried toward the coastline on strong winds and ocean currents. Recent research has shown that western Florida, like many coastal communities, may be increasingly vulnerable to outbreaks because these algae flourish in nutrient-rich, warm conditions fueled by runoff, fertilizer, and climate change.

Pinellas beach officials asking feds to jumpstart beach renourishment after Idalia

The mayor of Indian Rocks Beach in Pinellas County is imploring the federal government to jumpstart beach renourishment after Hurricane Idalia washed away more of the coast. But that would take changing some of the fed's requirements for private property owners.

Many Pinellas beaches have been devastated by Hurricane Idalia.

Indian Rocks Beach officials said Friday half of the city's beach access points are closed, and it will be months before they can reopen.

Mayor Cookie Kennedy said if they don't get any more sand in renourishment projects, the next storm could potentially wipe out the entire beach.

But a dispute among private property owners and the Army Corps of Engineers has put the restoration projects on hold.

Taxpayer money would be used to replace the sand, so the Army Corps requires beachfront property owners to provide a permanent easement within the construction area. But some property owners won't sign.

"We are greatly concerned with the damage that occurred from Hurricane Idalia," Kennedy said. "We ask the Army Corps to reverse their decision in May concerning the coastal communities in Pinellas County and renourish our beaches."

Kennedy said half of the city's beach access points are closed indefinitely. And there's a four-to-six-foot drop-off where the sand has been wiped away.

"We do agree that if you're on private property, you should have easements," she said. "But over 98 percent of this county - where beach renourishment is taking place - is not on private property."

The county pays for the local share of the nourishment projects. The federal share is 65% and the local share is 35%.

What is happening is a few private property owners are stopping beach renourishment from happening because they don't want to provide access. And this could imperil not just the beach - but their own homes. The Army Corps is saying if the public pays to put a beach where there would no longer be a beach, then the public now owns part of that beach.

City Manager Gregg Mims said Indian Rocks Beach alone had $600,000 damages to beach access points and boardwalks.

He said if they don't get any more sand, the next storm can potentially wipe out the entire beach.