Water-Related News

What do baby sharks do? New College and a Palmetto conservation group to find out

New College of Florida has received a shark research grant that focuses on population trends for shark species not currently included in long-term monitoring efforts, a news release said.

Specifically, juvenile — or baby — sharks of the blacktip, blacknose, bull and great hammerhead species in lower Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Restore America’s Estuaries awarded the $165,111 grant to fund Dr. Jayne Gardiner’s shark research. She’s the Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center director and associate biology professor at New College.

“Juvenile sharks are a critical component of a healthy Tampa Bay ecosystem, but they’ve historically been overlooked in many monitoring programs,” Gardiner said, in the news release. “Young sharks of several species have been documented in lower Tampa Bay, and our research will help us better understand the bay’s potential role as a nursery ground.”

Gardiner is using acoustic transmitters to discover the sharks’ nursery areas and study their habitat use, the news release said. According to Tampa Bay Business Journal, that can “measure the impact of climate change and coastal development in areas where the sharks reside.”

UF/IFAS awarded $100K grant to boost shellfish aquaculture industry

The project will include water quality sampling at four shellfish aquaculture farms — two oyster and two clam — along the Gulf Coast

HOMESTEAD — Shellfish like clams and oysters can help restore ocean health and support economic development and food production in coastal communities worldwide.

A scientist at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has partnered with Florida Sea Grant researchers on a $100,000 grant awarded by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Through the grant, scientists plan to quantify the ecosystem benefits of bivalve aquaculture, specifically assessing the use of oysters and clams. Researchers also will explore how to integrate shellfish into water quality policies in the state.

The Conservancy announced the grant recipients this month as part of the new Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) Shellfish Growers Resiliency Fund.

“The grant will help pave the way for shellfish aquaculture in Florida,” said Ashley Smyth, an assistant professor of biogeochemistry and soil and water sciences at UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. “The amount of nitrogen removed by oyster and clam aquaculture in Florida is unknown. Until those data exist, it is difficult to have a direct path for shellfish growers to contribute to water quality restoration and mitigation policies, or to be compensated for the ecosystem services that their products provide.”

Red tide among DeSantis' environmental budget priorities

Gov. Ron DeSantis will ask legislators to consider $960 million in funds for the 2022-23 fiscal year to support resiliency efforts across the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday [Nov. 16] announced his environmental budget priorities for the 2022-23 fiscal year, including $660 million to go toward Everglades restoration and other funds to address the impacts of sea level rise. Speaking in Naples, DeSantis said he will request legislators to approve $960 million toward resiliency efforts.

“We are excited to announce this historic support for Florida’s environment, Everglades restoration, and our water resources," DeSantis said in a news release. "We have seen great results so far, but we are not yet at the finish line.

"It’s nice to see so many coming together to support these initiatives. We will be pushing hard to continue the momentum this legislative session.”

DeSantis said some of the funds will address algal blooms and help local governments — including those across the greater Tampa Bay region — with red tide cleanup, along with helping communities become more resilient against intensified storms and flooding.

The budget breakdown, according to the release:

  • $660 million for Everglades restoration including the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the EAA Reservoir Project, and the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project.
  • $175 million for targeted water quality improvements
  • $40 million for the Alternative Water Supply Grant Program
  • $50 million for projects to restore Florida’s springs
  • $35 million for increased water quality monitoring and to combat harmful algal blooms including blue-green algae and red tide
  • $3 million to remove invasive Burmese pythons
  • $550 million to increase the resiliency for coastal and inland communities
  • $500 million for the Resilient Florida Grant Program for projects to make communities more resilient to sea level rise, intensified storms and flooding
  • More than $50 million to close the gap in resiliency planning and to protect coral reefs.

“In Florida, our environment is the foundation of everything from our economy to our way of life,” said Mark Rains, state chief science officer.

DeSantis is expected to releas

Mayor Kriseman: Cost of St. Petersburg plan for preventing sewage spills could top $3B

Rick Kriseman said the city doesn't have a sewage problem, it has a stormwater problem.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Monday the city has completed its stormwater and wastewater master plan.

Kriseman said the long-term plan to address the city’s increasingly stressed infrastructure will be a hefty but necessary investment.

“Our integrated water resources master plan takes everything into consideration. It is ambitious and quite frankly it is expensive,” Kriseman said. “It may ultimately cost the city about $3 billion over the next 20 years.”

According to city staff, St. Pete has already invested more than $280 million into repairs and enhancements of its aging infrastructure. Kriseman said it all started with a 2015 phone call from a Creative Loafing Tampa reporter asking about a sewage spill in Clam Bayou.

What Florida can expect from the infrastructure spending bill

Billions of dollars are on their way to Florida as part of the new infrastructure spending bill. Water projects may be the priority, according to a new report card.

Billions of dollars for roads, bridges and internet broadband will be coming to Florida over the next five years. President Joe Biden will sign the infrastructure bill into law Monday.

The trillion-dollar-plus spending plan earmarks money for a list of projects — transportation, public transit, electric vehicle recharging stations, and clean water projects among them.

There was some bipartisan support for the bill, but not among the Florida congressional delegation. Democrats in this state voted for it. Republicans against it.

Gov. Ron DeSantis described the legislation this way Monday: “I think it was a lot of pork-barrel spending from what I can tell.”

One of the Democrats hoping to win DeSantis’s job in next year’s election — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — called the new money a beginning.

“This is a great starting place. Is it ever going to be enough? No, but certainly this is historic in what we can do moving forward,” she said.

Are scientists contaminating their own samples with microfibers?

More than 70% of microplastics found in samples from oceans and rivers could come from the scientists collecting them.

A new paper by Staffordshire University and Rozalia Project, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, investigates procedural contamination when sampling for microparticles in aquatic environments. The study shows that a significant amount of microplastics and microfibres from scientists' clothing and gear mixes with environmental pollution in the water samples.

Claire Gwinnett, Professor in Forensic and Environmental Science at Staffordshire University, explained: "In the field this can occur due to the dynamic nature of the environment such as wind or weather, actions required to obtain samples and the close-proximity necessary for scientists to procure and secure samples whether in a medium-sized vessel, small boat or sampling from shore. In a mobile lab, this often occurs due to using small, multi-use spaces and similar requirements for scientists to be in close proximity to the samples while processing."

New College of Florida wins grant to study Tampa Bay shark population

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Restore America’s Estuaries have awarded a $165,111 grant to New College of Florida to fund shark research.

The research, which will be conducted by New College associate professor Jayne Gardiner, will assess population trends for Tampa Bay shark species, addressing data gaps that currently hinder conservation and management efforts.

“Juvenile sharks are a critical component of a healthy Tampa Bay ecosystem, but they’ve historically been overlooked in many monitoring programs," Gardiner said. "Young sharks of several species have been documented in lower Tampa Bay and our research will help us better understand the Bay’s potential role as a nursery ground.”

With a focus on blacktip, blacknose, bull and great hammerhead sharks in lower Tampa Bay, Gardiner will use long-term acoustic transmitters to discover the sharks’ nursery areas and study their habitat use.

The findings will help measure the impact of climate change and coastal development on the areas of the bay inhabited by these sharks.

Environmental groups lobby receiver on Piney Point deep well

MANATEE COUNTY — Suncoast Waterkeeper, Manasota 88, and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper were among several environmental groups to sign a letter sent to Herbert Donica, the attorney appointed as receiver for HRK Holdings, the site owner at Piney Point, a former phosphate processing plant that has been the source of multiple environmental catastrophes in Manatee County. The groups requested a "robust, representative, and transparent sampling effort at Piney Point.

"We write today about the present situation at the former Piney Point phosphate plant and the pending application to inject billions of gallons of process wastewater from that site just below the aquifer that millions of Floridians rely upon for drinking water and crop irrigation,” the letter stated. "On behalf of our collective members that reside in Florida, we respectfully request that you, in your role as receiver on behalf of HRK Holdings, LLC, undertake a robust, representative, and transparent sampling effort to confirm that the process wastewater proposed to be disposed of via deep well injection does not contain any hazardous constituents above the regulatory limits …”

The Center for Biological Diversity and Our Children’s Earth Foundation also signed the letter.

Pinellas beaches at risk of shrinking as renourishment project is delayed

A $45-million project to widen the 9-mile stretch of sand, between Clearwater and Redington Beach was supposed to take place in 2024. This renourishment project happens every six years.

“It’s much further behind in the process. So, it would be very difficult to meet those deadlines,” said Dr. John Bishop, Pinellas County Coastal Management Coordinator.

That’s because only 48% of beachfront property owners have signed easements. The Army Corp of Engineers needs 238 more signatures in order to move forward with the project.

County leaders said the delay in the restoration project means less sand and less protection for the next big storm.

“The next storm will take even more and slowly it will erode the beach back, probably to its original position at some point,” said Bishop.

Many property owners worry signing the easement will give federal leaders too much leniency to build in the future, allow public access to private areas and because the agreement says it’s “in perpetuity”— which essentially means forever.

Mote Marine Lab shark researcher Eugenie Clark to be honored with postage stamp

stamp image

From the blog of the Historical Society of Sarasota County:

Our Forever Heroine

Coming up in 2022, there will be this wonderful “Forever stamp” to stock up on. If it weren’t for Dr. Eugenie Clark, what would our oceans and the Gulf of Mexico be like? Known as “The Shark Lady”… she transformed a dream into a multi-faceted research center, Mote Marine. Clark was a pioneer in the field of scuba diving for research purposes.

Can you say “ichthyologist”? That is what Eugenie Clark was!

Links to learn more about Dr. Clark’s life work as summed up by the best scientific sites:

Our thanks to Sarasota’s Tak Konstantinou for letting us know of this honor to his family and to our local hero!

St. Pete is relaunching its Rainwater Rebate program

The City of St. Petersburg has relaunched its Rainwater Rebate Program.

St. Pete stormwater utility customers may be eligible for rebates when they install rainwater catchment devices such as rain barrels, rain totes or rain gardens that help conserve potable (drinking) water.

  • Rain Barrel: $50 rebate
  • Rain Tote: $100 rebate
  • Rain Garden: $100 rebate

Collecting rainwater from 1,000 square feet of roof during a 1/2” rain can yield about 300 gallons of water to be used for watering lawns and landscaping. This not only conserves potable (drinking) water, but also reduces the amount of stormwater runoff from the property.

In order to receive a rebate, St. Petersburg utility customers must attend a Rainwater Guardian Workshop and meet other qualifying criteria. Workshops are free and pre-registration is required. Workshop schedule can be found at stpete.org/WaterWorkshops.

Customers may even receive a free rain barrel upon completion of a Rainwater Guardian Workshop.

Any questions, email RainwaterRebates@stpete.org or call 727-892-5611. For detailed information, program documents can be found at stpete.org/WaterPrograms.

Additional water conservation rebates, workshops and resources are available at stpete.org/WaterConservation.

Florida congressional lawmakers hold meeting on state’s water quality woes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from Florida met in Washington D.C. to discuss the state's pressing water quality issues. Some of the topics discussed revolved around the record number of manatee deaths the state is seeing amid worsening algae blooms.

Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz originally announced the 29-member state Delegation meeting — the first meeting since Feb. 2020.

Dr. Michael P. Crosby, president and CEO of the Sarasota-based Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, was invited to speak in front of the delegation. He stressed the need for a new seagrass restoration project. Acres of seagrass beds have been dying off over the years in different parts of the state.

Seagrass acts as the main food source for manatees which have been dying at a record rate this year. The general consensus among marine biologists is many of the mammals are dying of starvation due to increased water pollution fueling algal blooms that kill off seagrass.

The FWC says there have been 988 manatee deaths from Jan. 1 to Oct. 29, 2021, meeting the criteria to be declared an Unusual Mortality Event — one that has been confirmed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There were 830 manatee deaths in 2013 alone, the previous all-time high that happened following a red tide outbreak, according to The Associated Press.

Another recent water quality crisis that was addressed was the former Piney Point phosphate mining facility. Earlier this year, more than 200 million gallons of wastewater was dumped from a leaking reservoir at the facility and into Tampa Bay.

Wesley R. Brooks, director of federal affairs for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, told lawmakers the department's commitment to closing the facility.

Last month, FDEP finalized an agreement with a new court-appointed receiver to oversee the closure of the facility.

Red tide persists along Florida’s Gulf coast; here’s how you can help stop it

Red tide shows up in southwest and west central Florida waterways and news headlines more often than we care to see it. Even the scientific name for its main causative agent, the phytoplankton (microalgae) Karenia Brevis, carries household name notoriety in the Tampa Bay Area due to its roaming prevalence of late in the Gulf of Mexico.

Like inconsiderate houseguests, some red tides tend to linger. The harmful algae bloom (HAB) that first appeared last December currently persists in low to moderate patches along Florida's west coast, with high concentrations present near Pinellas and Sarasota as recently as late October.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)'s Red Tide Current Status displays current tracking data. You can also call 866-300-9399 at any time from anywhere in Florida to hear a recording about red tide conditions. The recording is updated on Fridays at 5 p.m.

The good news? Scientists and environmental advocates now believe that by incorporating simple, eco-friendly practices at home, Florida residents can work alongside larger regional efforts to improve water quality -- and in doing so, encourage healthier waterways where HAB houseguests like K. Brevis won't feel welcome for such extended, high-concentration stays.

Check your irrigation timer when you ‘fall back’ to standard time

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents to check the timers on their irrigation system controllers this weekend, which is the end of daylight saving time.

Saturday night is when we will turn our clocks back one hour. The time change is also a good time to make sure irrigation system timers are set correctly to ensure that the systems operate consistently with year-round water conservation measures.

All 16 counties throughout the District’s boundaries are on year-round water conservation measures, with lawn watering limited to twice-per-week unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours. Local governments maintaining once-per-week watering by local ordinance include Citrus, Hernando, southern Hillsborough, Pasco and Sarasota counties and the cities of Dunedin, Longboat Key, Sarasota and Venice.

Know and follow your local watering restrictions, but don’t water just because it’s your day. Irrigate your lawn when it shows signs of stress from lack of water. Pay attention to signs of stressed grass:

  • Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on at least one-third of your yard.
  • Grass blades appear blue-gray.
  • Grass blades do not spring back, leaving footprints on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it.

For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Conservation.