Water-Related News

Parks & Conservation Resources Advisory Board vacancies announced

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Pinellas County is accepting applications to fill two vacancies on the Parks & Conservation Resources Advisory Board, requiring professional experience in environmental science and/or policy. The term of office shall be from Aug. 1, 2022, until July 31, 2023. This is a volunteer position, and members receive no compensation.

The Advisory Board acts in an advisory capacity to the Board of County Commissioners, County Administrator and Parks & Conservation Resources Department. Duties of the board include, but are not limited to, reviewing park plans, operations and procedures; participating in public education and ceremonial activities; and formulating proposals for park improvements.

This board meets at least quarterly unless there is no business to conduct that quarter. To read more about the Advisory Board, visit www.pinellascounty.org/boards/Parks_Conservation_Resources_Board.htm.

Applications are due by 3 p.m. on Friday, June 24, 2022. The application can be found at https://www.pinellascounty.org/boards/board-committee-list.htm.

Please Note: All materials submitted to Pinellas County Government are subject to the public records law of the state of Florida.

What you need to know ahead of the seasonal fertilizer bans

Numerous local governments restrict fertilizer use each year through the end of September.

ST. PETERSBURG – Florida's annual summer rainy season is about to begin, and that means fertilizer bans are soon kicking in, too.

Across the Tampa Bay region, numerous fertilizer bans begin June 1 and run through Sept. 30.

Such policies are in place in Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties, along with the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Pasco County has a fertilizer ordinance in place year-round to help prevent pollution and also help preserve local water quality.

People can still use products with double zeroes on the fertilizer label and use plants that are Florida-friendly. You can find more tips on how to have a Florida-friendly landscape on the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences website.

Water-related issues dominate Pinellas County’s 2022 federal legislative priorities

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The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners approved its 2022 Federal Legislative Priorities Program on Tuesday, highlighting issues that have a substantial impact on the county and will likely be addressed in the current Congress.

Priorities include:

  • Support a long-term extension to the Federal Flood Insurance Program (set to expire Sept. 30) that ensures financial sustainability while not pricing out policyholders. This includes providing premium discounts for private and community-based mitigation efforts.
  • Correct the issues with the approach and algorithm for Risk Rating 2.0, which went into full effect April 1, 2022
  • Request that the Army Corps of Engineers reevaluate its Perpetual Storm Damage Reduction Easement policy, which requires that 100 percent of beachfront property owners sign perpetual easements for areas landward of the Erosion Control Line within the limits of the planned Sand Key beach nourishment project.
  • Request that Congress include in the 2022 Water Resources Development Act a 50-year reauthorization of the Treasure Island and Long Key sections of the Pinellas County beach construction program.
  • Support strategies that address the Federal Highway Trust Fund’s declining revenues to adequately fund future transportation needs.
  • Identify federal funding opportunities for Pinellas County via the enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • Support legislation to permanently ban oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico within 125 miles of Florida. Legislation providing for a temporary moratorium expires in 2022, and a Presidential Executive Order expires in 2032.

In addition to the listed priorities, staff will closely monitor issues that emerge and have the potential to impact Pinellas County Government’s ability to deliver services to residents and visitors.

St. Pete’s fertilizer ban starts June 1st

ST. PETERSBURG – St. Pete’s yearly fertilizer ban returns June 1 and runs through September 30. Increased rainfall in the summer months can cause nutrients from fertilizer to reach water bodies and lead to environmental issues like algae blooms, fish kills and water quality problems.

To help prevent this, using fertilizer is prohibited June 1 through September 30.

St. Pete residents are encouraged to follow these eco-friendly tips:

  • Treat lawns with a slow-release fertilizer in the spring or fertilizer-free micronutrients in the summer
  • Pick up any debris or vegetation near storm drains year-round to keep it from entering our waterways
  • Follow a no-mow zone six feet from any water body, helping to establish a protective barrier
  • Make sure lawn maintenance/landscaper is certified through Pinellas County
  • Replace some or all of lawn with Florida-friendly native plants

More information can be found at stpete.org/Fertilizer.

Deadline approaching for Tampa Bay Community Water Wise Awards entry

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From Doris Heitzmann, Pinellas County Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program Manager:

The Community Water Wise Awards Program is sponsored by Tampa Bay Water and was created to recognize individuals and businesses committed to conserving water resources and protecting the environment by implementing the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles. It is open to residents of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco Counties.

The Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ are:

  1. Right Plant, Right Place
  2. Water Efficiently
  3. Fertilize Appropriately
  4. Mulch
  5. Attract Wildlife
  6. Manage Yard Pests responsibly
  7. Recycle
  8. Reduce Stormwater Runoff
  9. Protect the Waterfront

Most of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles are incorporated in the judging process for the Community Water Wise Awards program with focus on efficient water use in the landscape. The retention of trees and the overall design and aesthetics of the landscape are also taken into consideration. You may view photographs and watch short videos of past winners at https://awards.tampabaywaterwise.org/.

Who can apply?

The annual contest is open to landscapes from across the tri-county Tampa Bay region (includes Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough).

How to apply?

Entering is free, and only takes a few minutes. Potential applicants should visit https://awards.tampabaywaterwise.org/enter-your-landscape/ to fill out the brief online entry form.

The deadline for entries is Thursday, June 30. For questions contact Doris Heitzmann at dheitzmann@pinellascounty.org

To learn more about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program and gardening related questions contact:

  • Pinellas County: Doris Heitzmann, 727-582-2110

Pinellas County awarded $700,000 grant to continue vulnerability assessment efforts

Pinellas County was awarded $700,000 in grant funding Tuesday from the State of Florida’s Resilient Florida Grant Program to complete the second phase of the County’s Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Vulnerability Assessment.

In phase one of the assessment, Pinellas County created more than 100 flood maps for various sea-level rise scenarios out to the year 2100, along with storm surge and tidal flooding projections to help categorize levels of vulnerability for various types of infrastructure.

Results of the final assessment from phase two will provide new data to the County to develop natural and engineered adaption strategies, including the design and planning of infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, stormwater management systems and wastewater treatment facilities.

“Our goal is to create a more resilient Pinellas County for the future of our community,” said Hank Hodde, Pinellas County’s Sustainability and Resiliency Coordinator. “Using the best available data and science will help us lead the way in addressing current-day hazards and future climate impacts. We appreciate the state for their support in our current and upcoming efforts.”

The assessment results will be announced when completed. Updates on Pinellas County sustainability and resiliency efforts can be found at sustainability.pinellas.gov.

Pinellas County received one of 98 awards announced Tuesday from the Resilient Florida Grant Program. This award adds to the $28.6 million previously received from the grant program in February. The full list of projects awarded can be found here.

FDEP invites stakeholders to participate in public meeting on TMDL prioritization

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To: All TMDL Stakeholders
From: Ansel Bubel, Environmental Administrator

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announces a public meeting beginning at 11 a.m. EDT on May 24, 2022, to receive comments on a proposed framework for prioritizing waters and setting two-year work plans for TMDL development. The framework will align with the statewide biennial assessment and will guide TMDL development for the next decade. Only the proposed priority setting process will be discussed at the public meeting. Another meeting will be held in the summer of 2022 to present the proposed TMDL development work plan for the next two years.

The May 24 meeting is scheduled at the following location, and via webinar:

2600 Blair Stone Road
Bob Martinez Center, Room 609
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Registration is open for the webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the webinar. The meeting agenda and framework document are available online.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, any person requiring special accommodations to participate in this workshop is asked to advise the agency at least 48 hours before the workshop by contacting Johna Costantino at 850-245-7508. If you have a speech or hearing impairment, please contact the agency using the Florida Relay Service, 800-955-8771 (TDD) or 800-955-8770 (voice).

A new study shows the Piney Point spill likely made red tide worse

The spill essentially "fed" red tide by dumping nitrogen into the waters, fueling algae blooms and killing millions of fish and marine life.

A new study shows that the wastewater dumped into Tampa Bay last year from the Piney Point phosphate plant likely made the subsequent outbreak of red tide much worse. It says a year's worth of nutrients flowed into the bay in 10 days.

The study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin shows that about 180 metric tons of nitrogen poured into the bay from a leak at the phosphate plant. Those nutrients fueled the growth of algae called cyanobacteria. It essentially "fed" red tide when it entered Tampa Bay from the Gulf several weeks later — killing millions of fish and marine life.

"What we think happened is because the nutrients were around, it was available for the red tide," said Marcus Beck of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, , the study's lead author. "It just created this set of conditions that prompted the growth of the red tide to levels that we hadn't really seen in the bay — in that part of the bay, specifically — since 1971."

Since Tampa Bay is considered a "closed system" with only one outlet into the Gulf of Mexico, he said that meant putting that much nitrogen into the system, it would fuel algae blooms.

"The level of red tide that we saw, the concentrations that we saw this year, that was very abnormal," Beck said, "and with Piney Point, it wasn't too much of a stretch to suggest that that was the causative factor that was likely stimulating the growth in the bay in July."

The state has approved a plan for the remaining water at Piney Point to be injected deep underground. But some fear a heavy hurricane season could cause the stack to overflow once again.

Highlights of the study:

  • 186 metric tons of total nitrogen from wastewater were added to Tampa Bay
  • An initial diatom bloom was observed near the release site
  • Filamentous cyanobacteria were observed at high biomass
  • Karenia brevis (red tide) was at high concentrations, co-occurring with fish kills
  • Seagrasses were unimpacted during the six-month study period

Piney Point Timeline

Tarpon Springs’ Leepa Rattner Museum opens two exhibitions focused on water

It is no secret that Florida is home to beautiful and diverse waterways.

The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at St. Petersburg College is opening two summer exhibitions on May 21st which highlight the need to protect these waterways from impending harm. Both exhibitions run through August 27th.

The exhibition Balance of Water: Carol Mickett & Robert Stackhouse explores the effects of climate change and the warming of our waters. This exhibition can be found in the North, South, and Center Galleries.

“Balance of Water: Carol Mickett & Robert Stackhouse explores the unseen forces in nature that keep our planet in check and envisions what could happen when imbalance pushes these forces to the brink,” says Christine Renc-Carter, curator for the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art. “Mickett and Stackhouse have created a forum for dialogue where art and science converge. Their monumental paintings push the conversation of climate change in new directions in a visually poetic way that is all-encompassing, yet intimate in feeling.”

The exhibition Florida’s Waterways: Homage to Tarpon Springs includes a collection of paintings and sculptures by local renowned artists. These pieces complement the Balance of Water exhibition by showcasing marine life and climate change in Florida. This exhibition can be found in the Atrium Gallery.

“As the Gulf Stream loops south towards the equator, the journey continues through Florida’s Waterways: Homage to Tarpon Springs with works focused on our southern waters by renowned local artists Christopher Still, Bill Renc, Allen Leepa and others,” Renc-Carter says. “The climate crisis becomes all too real with educational text and QR Codes that encourage scientific inquiry.”

UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas launches Adopt-A-Drain pilot program

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UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County, in collaboration with Pinellas County Environmental Management, has launched an Adopt-A-Drain pilot program. With summer around the corner, it’s a great opportunity for environmentalists, youth groups and other volunteers to adopt a storm drain near where they live, work or play.

Adopt-A-Drain partners with volunteers in Pinellas County to help keep storm drains flowing by ensuring they are free of litter and debris and marked with storm drain markers. Volunteers will also report illegal dumping, which helps improve water quality. Keeping storm drains clear is especially important during the summer rainy season to reduce the potential for flooding.

Modeled after the successful Adopt-A-Drain San Francisco program, Pinellas County’s Adopt-A-Drain program is funded by Tampa Bay Estuary Program’s Bay mini-grant, which is made possible through the sales of their specialty license plate. Keep Pinellas Beautiful provides additional support.

Groups or individuals can submit an Adopt-A-Drain Pilot Program Interest form online. The Adopt-A-Drain coordinator will work with participants to select storm drains they will maintain. Once finalized, participants will receive free Adopt-A-Drain training and be asked to sign a volunteer waiver form. Upon completion of the training, participants will receive an Adopt-A-Drain kit to help keep their drain free from trash and debris and ensure their safety.

To sign up or learn more about this program, visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/environmental/adopt-a-drain.htm.

Water managers in ever-growing Southwest Florida work to ensure the drinking water supply is safe

Southwest Florida prepares to meet the future water needs as 1,000 people move into the Sunshine State every day. Access to drinkable water has already reached a crisis level in places worldwide, which nonprofits and celebrities are working to fix.

The lack of access to drinkable water is devastating communities around the world, and Southwest Florida's water managers are working to make sure the same thing never happens here.

“We turn on our tap and water just comes out of the faucet,” said Robert Lucius Jr., who oversees a 60,000-acre watershed that spans Lee and Collier counties.

“We don’t really give it much thought."

In other parts of the world, however, having water to drink is always on everyone's mind.

UNICEF found in 2020 that about one-quarter of the world’s population does not have a reliable source of drinking water at home, and half do not have properly working sanitation systems. In places, the demand for water is outpacing the growth rate two-fold. In Africa and Southeast Asia, the United Nations reports clean water is either scarce or completely unavailable.

The dearth of clean water is deadly. Nearly half of the roughly 2.2 billion people who struggle to find enough clean water to drink will die of thirst, disease caused by ingesting tainted water, or the unsanitary conditions that are becoming endemic in water-starved countries. The UN found that more people worldwide have access to a cell phone than do a toilet.

The World Water Council, World Resources Institute, and Global Water Leaders join charities like Water.org and charity: water in working in most of the drought-plagued places in the world. Kristen Bell, Jay-Z and Matt Damon are among a group of Hollywood heavyweights who have thrown their substantial clout behind the effort to ensure everyone on the planet has access to fresh water.

Bell raised almost $70,000 for charity: water, a New York nonprofit focused on providing drinking water to developing countries. Rapper Jay-Z created a documentary in 2007, “Diary of Jay-Z: Water For Life,” and worked with MTV and the UN to develop an clean-water advocacy campaign. Damon co-founded Water.org, which works to help families in struggling countries build sanitation systems and maintain a clean water supply.

“Access to water is access to education, access to work, access above all to the kind of future we want for our own families and all the members of our human family," Damon said on his organization's website. “You cannot solve poverty without solving water and sanitation.”

Increasing populations as well as climate change are but two of the things contributing to water woes, around the world and in Florida. More people mean more of a need for fresh water on a planet with a finite amount of it, and more than 1,000 people move into the Sunshine State every day. A warming planet means hotter air temperatures that increase evaporation, robbing reservoirs of drinking water.

The water woes in Southwest Florida are not nearly as bad as they are in other parts of the world, but not enough water still causes a host of problems in the region. Countless hours are spent by the region’s water managers divvying up the supply so the situation here doesn’t ever approach the struggles other parts of the world are having. And plans are being made now for decades in the future so water woes won’t sneak up on Southwest Florida’s residents.

Concerned by sea level rise, Tarpon Springs looks to fix area plagued by tidal flooding

The city wants public input on its plan to fix the problematic intersection during a Wednesday night meeting

As the threat of sea-level rise makes the threat more concerning, the city [of Tarpon Springs] is looking for ways to mitigate localized flooding.

“[Tarpon Springs] is uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise and coastal storm events and future planning efforts should seek to identify these vulnerabilities and provide mitigating policy direction,” city staff wrote in a recent report.

In the first phase of a new project, the city will take one step toward that goal. It wishes to raise and rebuild the intersection of Spring Blvd. and MLK Dr. to make traffic flow better and the flooding less severe.

"Either we do a typical four-way stop or a roundabout," said the Tarpon Springs Project Administration Director, Bob Robertson.

In a second phase, it wants to look broader at other flood-prone spots on the bayou to see how it can help improve those spots too.

"One way would be raising the roadway. Another would be installing a concrete wall, a vertical wall, and a third would be an earth and berm type solution," said Robertson.

Experts: Tampa Bay can be a leader in flood mitigation strategies

Tampa Bay has an opportunity to showcase a new way of mitigating storms and sea-level rise, according to out-of-town leaders hosted by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Dozens of professionals in fields ranging from landscape architecture to hydrology convened in Tampa Bay for a three-part charrette that began last week. They mapped out flood solutions for North Tampa and Pass-A-Grille Beach; they will conclude in Oldsmar on Thursday and then return on June 23 for a symposium to discuss their findings.

Flooding is a long-term problem that the region can't ignore, said Andy Sternad, architect at New Orleans-based Waggoner & Ball. He appreciated that the regional planning council accommodated innovative solutions that — at least at the beginning of the process — ignore the restrictive permitting regulations currently in place.

Fishermen and scientists probe phosphate's connection to Florida red tides

Florida Commercial Waterman Conservation (FCWC) was founded in 2018.

A gap between real-time data and the academic resources that can steer policy inspired the idea to enlist fishermen, who have the holistic knowledge of the ocean, as data collectors, says Chris Kelble, director of the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

“Casey [Streeter] volunteered for a research cruise with me. The idea for the nonprofit stemmed from us sitting on the deck of the boat talking one night in between stations where we were taking water samples. He was instrumental in helping guide where to sample, because he knew exactly where the worst places were,” Kelble says. “Our goal this spring is to be able to communicate and let folks know about the likelihood of there being significant hypoxia. If there are excess nutrients coming off the land, this promotes red tide.”

FCWC is composed of half a dozen local volunteers and fishermen, in addition to Streeter. “We have mostly been focusing our testing in our immediate areas of southwest Florida,” he says, “but we did have a boat test off of Tampa during the red tide last year and as far north as Panama City. We would like to grow this program to all regions of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Living shoreline near completion at St. Petersburg’s Lassing Park

An effort to address severe shoreline erosion in St. Petersburg’s Passing Park is close to wrapping up, with the final pieces of a living shoreline set to be installed on Earth Day, April 22.

A big part of the project are oyster reef balls, which are meant to attract oysters and create a thriving new ecosystem.

Each oyster reef ball is made from marine-safe concrete and weighs about 200 pounds, shaped in a fiber glass mold by members and volunteers with the non-profit organization Tampa Bay Watch.

“It is a man-made object, but the hope is that it will blend into the backdrop of the natural shoreline we’ll help to create,” said Eric Plage, Oyster Reef Ball Project Coordinator. “And it won’t be as obvious that that was something created by us and rather than just naturally occurring.”

Report details climate change’s impact to Tampa Bay, says cost of doing nothing is dire

Sea-level rise threatens the more than three million people who live in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater metro areas — nearly five million in the entire region.

This week on Florida Matters, we explore climate change's impact in the Tampa Bay region and how some cities are planning to adapt.

Sea-level rise threatens the more than three million people who live in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater metro areas — and the nearly five million in the entire region.

So officials in St. Petersburg and Tampa have turned to multi-billion dollar solutions like raising buildings and building sea walls.

To find out more about the cities' plans, host Matthew Peddie spoke with Sharon Wright, the sustainability manager for the city of St. Petersburg, and Whit Remer, the sustainability and resilience officer for the city of Tampa, for the first half of the episode.

Later on, Peddie talks with Maya Burke, assistant director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, about the environmental impact of a changing climate on Tampa Bay and other waterways across the region.

You can listen to the full conversations by visiting the link below.

Climate change fueled extreme rainfall during the record 2020 hurricane reason

Human-induced climate change fueled one of the most active North Atlantic hurricane seasons on record in 2020, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

The study analyzed the 2020 season and the impact of human activity on climate change. It found that hourly hurricane rainfall totals were up to 10% higher when compared to hurricanes that took place in the pre-industrial era in 1850, according to a news release from Stony Brook University.

"The impacts of climate change are actually already here," said Stony Brook's Kevin Reed, who led the study. "They're actually changing not only our day-to-day weather, but they're changing the extreme weather events."

There were a record-breaking 30 named storms during the 2020 hurricane season. Twelve of them made landfall in the continental U.S.

These powerful storms are damaging and the economic costs are staggering.

Hurricanes are fueled in part by moisture linked to warm ocean temperatures. Over the last century, higher amounts of greenhouse gases due to human emissions have raised both land and ocean temperatures.

Sarasota researcher predicts 22 named storms, 5 major hurricanes in 2022

The Climate Adaptation Center, headed by researcher Bob Bunting, released its annual forecast for hurricane season on Friday.

SARASOTA — Tampa Bay residents have a tendency to brush aside concerns about hurricane season as annual forecasts arrive each spring.

Bob Bunting understands why so many are carefree: A major hurricane hasn’t struck the region in more than 100 years. But Bunting, a hurricane researcher and chief executive officer for the Climate Adaptation Center in Sarasota, says that’s a dangerous way to approach hurricane season any year, but especially as of late.

That’s because storm seasons are becoming longer and fiercer on average, he said, meaning Tampa Bay’s centurylong string of luck could end sooner rather than later. And, with the Climate Adaptation Center forecasting 2022 to be a seventh straight above-average season, the “big” storm could strike as soon as this year.

Tampa Bay Watch protects area shorelines one project at a time

Non-profit aims to protect Tampa Bay shorelines

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay’s waterways are not only vital to our economy but also the reason many of us call the bay area home. Its longevity is something we all play a part in, and Tampa Bay Watch is leading the charge to protect our shoreline.

The non-profit is dedicated exclusively to the protection and restoration of the marine and wetland environments of Tampa Bay using scientific and educational programs.

Director of Habitat Restoration Serra Herndon said the group's next project is underway at Lassing Park in St. Petersburg. Instead of using a man-made seawall to protect the shoreline at the park, Tampa Bay Watch is introducing a multi-year project to stop erosion. They are planning on using a three-layer approach that builds the shoreline up with oyster reef balls, bagged shell and 13-thousand square feet of salt marsh grass.

Tampa Bay Watch said the goal of using this approach aims to restore lost habitat by promoting new oyster growth, improve water quality and provide food sources and habitat for many species.

Pinellas County water treatment method temporarily changing in May to improve quality

The method of water treatment for Pinellas County and its wholesale customers will be temporarily modified between Sunday, May 15, and Saturday, June 4. The first of two short-term changes from chloramine to chlorine disinfection in 2022 is a routine maintenance measure designed to optimize water quality.

Pinellas County Utilities water customers will benefit from this program, as well as customers in the cities of Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Safety Harbor.

The disinfection program is designed to maintain distribution system water quality and minimize the potential for any future problems. There have been no indications of significant bacteriological contamination problems in the system. The water will continue to meet all federal and state standards for safe drinking water.

Kidney dialysis patients should not be impacted but should contact their dialysis care provider for more information about chlorine disinfection and how it affects their treatment. Fish owners should not be affected if they already have a system in place to remove chloramines but should contact local pet suppliers with any questions.

Customers may notice a slight difference in the taste and/or odor of the water during this temporary change in treatment.

Chlorine was used as the primary disinfectant in the water for more than 50 years prior to 2002. Pinellas County switched to chloramine in 2002 to ensure compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards. Many communities using chloramine convert back to chlorine for short periods of time to maintain system water quality.

The second short-term change from chloramine to chlorine disinfection in 2022 is scheduled to take place from Sunday, Sept. 25 through Saturday, Oct. 15.

For more information, please visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities or contact Pinellas County Utilities Business & Customer Services at (727) 464-4000.

The chlorine maintenance program underscores the county’s strategic goal of protecting and improving the quality of our water.

Tampa Bay Partnership releases report offering a clear economic case for investing in resilience

Report was presented at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s Regional Resiliency Leadership Summit

The Tampa Bay Partnership released a new report, “Making the Economic Case for Resilience,” on April 5, the first day of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s two-day Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Leadership Summit.

The report presents risks to the Tampa Bay region and individual counties for the next two decades and beyond, while presenting a clear economic case for investing in making our communities more resilient. Summit attendees will also learn about the benefits of public/private collaboration to reduce risks and impacts to infrastructure, buildings and other important community assets.

Partnership Regional Resiliency Task Force Chair Brian Auld, president of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Partnership CEO/President Bemetra Simmons will discuss the report with other project leaders at the second Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Leadership Summit, coordinated by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council at the St. Petersburg Hilton Carillon.

The Leadership Summit, delayed one year due to COVID, will bring together local, state and national leaders to discuss resilience and how to turn the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition’s new action plan into reality.

The Resiliency Coalition, formed in 2018, includes 32 local governments spanning from Citrus County to Sarasota County. Attendees will hear from experts and leading local governments and will define priorities for regional collaboration. The Coalition members and partner organizations will then discuss goals and actions in the new Regional Resiliency Action Plan to reduce risks and impacts from flooding and sea level rise.

Among the other highlights of the Summit:

  • The Resilient Cities Mayor’s Panel will include Mayors Jane Castor (Tampa), Ken Welch (St. Petersburg), Frank Hibbard (Clearwater), and Woody Brown (Largo), discussing their progress and future plans for making their cities more resilient, sustainable and equitable.
  • Senior county administrators from Pinellas, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pasco and Manatee counties will discuss the opportunities and challenges involved in planning and implementing resiliency efforts at the county level.
  • William V. Sweet, Ph.D., an oceanographer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will provide an update on climate impacts and high tide risks to the Tampa Bay area.
  • Janet C. Long, Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition Co-Chair and Pinellas County Commissioner, will team with Brandi Gabbard, Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council Chair and St. Petersburg City Council member, to provide updates on the state of resiliency efforts in the Tampa Bay area.
  • Lisa Foster, Pinellas County Floodplain Administrator; Mike Twitty, Pinellas County Property Appraiser; and Joe Farrell, VP of Public Affairs for the Pinellas Realtor Association, will discuss how flood risks impact area real estate.

Other sessions will include a state legislative update, a look at activating resilience initiatives in smaller towns and cities, and a discussion of innovative infrastructure design and construction concepts.

As part of the Summit, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is asking residents to give their thoughts in a survey on what they see as the most serious risks related to extreme heat, major storms and flooding, along with ranking the issues by importance and rating potential solutions.

The Leadership Summit will also include the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council on the evening of April 5, as well as the 28th annual Future of the Region Awards, which will be the highlight of the luncheon April 6.

Go to tbrpc.org/summit2022 for a full schedule and to register. The Tampa Bay Partnership report is available at this link.

Green infrastructure helps cities with climate change. So why isn’t there more of it?

Federal agencies are beginning to hand out billions of dollars in infrastructure spending, the largest investment ever made in the country's water system. Much of it will go to improving pipes, drains and stormwater systems. But some scientists and urban planners are pushing to fund projects that are better adapted to the changing climate.

Instead of just gray infrastructure, supporters say the answer is green.

Green infrastructure, whether it's large rain gardens or plants along a street median, has the same purpose as big storm sewers: to manage large amounts of water that can build up during heavy rains. Plants and soil absorb and slow runoff from rainstorms, while a stormwater drain captures water that runs down a street gutter and diverts it underground into pipes.

On a hotter planet, storms are getting more intense, and rainfall is often heavier. Flooding is on the rise in many cities. Stormwater systems are being increasingly overwhelmed by extreme rainfall. In the Northeast, the heaviest storms produce 55% more rain today compared to 1958. Last year, dozens of people drowned there when the remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded basements, streets and cars.

Still, most cities face major backlogs in maintaining the aging gray infrastructure they already have, amounting to billions of dollars nationwide. In the rush to secure federal funding to fill that void, some worry that green infrastructure will be left by the wayside.

"What good is a pristine road that's flooded?" says Marccus Hendricks, assistant professor of urban studies and planning at the University of Maryland. "Elevating the priority of green infrastructure and stormwater systems is critical."