Water-Related News

New batch of Florida red tide offers research opportunities

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating if reddish streaks in the Gulf photographed near Collier County contain Florida red tide cells.

The dramatic photos were taken by Ralph Arwood of LightHawk Conservation Flying on Wednesday and stretch for miles along the coast. Low to medium red tide levels have been detected this week in water samples taken from Pinellas to Lee County.

Seven samples from Venice Beach to Brohard Beach near Venice had low levels. Blind Pass between Captiva Island and Sanibel Island had medium concentrations; very low levels were found near Pinellas County from Indian Shores Beach to Redington Beach.

The last significant Florida red tide episode persisted for nearly a year and a half, from October 2017 to February 2019. The microorganism known as Karenia brevis killed tens of thousands of marine animals and caused respiratory irritatio

Patchy Florida red tide detected in three Southwest Florida counties

Patches of Karenia brevis, a naturally occurring toxic algae known as Florida red tide, has been detected in low levels offshore from Sarasota, Lee and Pinellas counties.

The last terrible outbreak of the microorganism that turns the turquoise waters of the Gulf the color of Coca-Cola lasted from October 2017 to February 2019. It killed tens of thousands of sea creatures, including dolphins, sea turtles and manatees.

The algae can be fueled near shore by nutrient pollution associated with urban or agricultural runoff, according to Mote Marine Laboratory.

Wave action can break open red tide cells, releasing toxins into the air, leading to respiratory irritation.

Living shorelines: Natural defense to storms

TALLAHASSEE – Back in September, as Hurricane Sally battered Florida's panhandle with a deluge of rain and high winds, some locals said their living shorelines were their best defense against the area's storm surge.

Instead of a hardened seawall aimed at protecting shores from erosion, living shorelines use vegetation and other natural elements like oyster shells to stabilize estuarine coasts, bays, and tributaries.

Josh Poole built a living shoreline around his property in Gulf Breeze to stop erosion from his beach.

Despite seeing Hurricane Sally's waves break as high as 17 feet over his boathouse, he said his shoreline stayed strong.

"I literally thought that the beach would be gone," Poole maintained. "I thought that the rocks would be gone, I thought the oyster shells would all be just washed away. And I was absolutely amazed to find that a few of the late boulders on top had been moved around maybe a few feet, I mean, literally 18 inches."

Hurricane Sally was expected to strike Alabama and Mississippi. Instead, it made a slow crawl over land in Florida's Panhandle with 105-mile-per-hour winds, ripping roofs, snapping trees, and leaving thousands without power.

Poole hopes other homeowners will consider living shorelines as a means of erosion protection.

Coral reef restoration and other resilience projects win national funding

Florida has netted nearly $13 million in public-private grants from the National Coastal Resilience Fund for projects to restore or expand natural systems needed to protect coastlines from climate-induced sea-level rise and severe weather.

Florida’s projects include nearly $5 million granted to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to rescue dying Florida coral reefs in the Florida Keys, as announced this week by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The funds will be matched by other sources, for a total of $10.3 million to plant elkhorn and staghorn corals at Eastern Dry Rocks, one of seven focus sites of NOAA’s “Mission: Iconic Reefs.” Various corals on the Great Florida Reef are dying off at alarming speed due to disease and pollution, according to marine scientists.

SWFWMD to hold virtual public workshop to update land use and management rules and processes

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold a virtual public workshop at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, to discuss updates to the District’s land use and management rules and processes.

The purpose of this workshop is to update outdated rules and processes governing the use of District lands to create efficiencies. One of the major changes includes an annual limit on the number of nights campers can reserve per year, which will provide more fair opportunities for all users. Updating these rules and processes will also create greater consistency with other water management districts.

Members of the public may join the workshop via Microsoft Teams through this link: https://bit.ly/3eAg6ML. The Google Chrome browser is recommended for best compatibility with Microsoft Teams. For telephone-only participation, dial 1-888-585-9008 and when prompted enter the conference code ID: 346-054-201.

The updated land use rules are posted on the District’s website and the District will be accepting public comment from Nov. 24 to Dec. 7 at WaterMatters.org/LandUseRules.

Tropical Storm Eta pounded Pinellas beaches; fears aired over future storms

Tropical Storm Eta caused considerable beach erosion on the Gulf Coast. It may mean our coastline is in danger from a future storm.

Massive erosion of dunes from Tropical Storms Eta and Hermine has left many beaches exposed if another storm hits.

John Bishop, coastal management coordinator for Pinellas County, says on Indian Shores, you can see how the sand has dropped two feet on piers leading into the water.

And at Pass-a-Grille, he says 16 feet of dunes were wiped out by the Eta.

As much as half a million cubic yards of sand were washed away.

There won't be any help coming quickly from the Army Corps of Engineers, which is not planning any beach nourishment projects until 2023 at the earliest.

"Without that storm damage protection there, we are wide open," he said. "We have winter fronts, where we get a lot of our erosion traditionally, and next summer, there'll be another hurricane season."

There are three Army Corps of Engineer beach nourishment projects planned in Treasure Island, Sand Key, and St. Pete Beach. There are easements in place where workers can get to the first two, but Bishop says they're having difficulty reaching beachfronts in Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, and Reddington Shores. So those beaches that need help may not get repaired.

Bishop says on Sunset Beach, a nourishment project from 2018 that was supposed to last six years is basically gone.

"The beach nourishment, which is a very effective way of trying to combat storm damage, erosion, build a nice beach — it's natural, provides habitat — in places like Sunset, the past nourishments have only lasted two years," he said. "So if full nourishment projects are lasting only two years, I don't know that other things are going to help."

Bishop says scientists from the University of South Florida are doing studies of the beachfront to see what priorities need to be tackled first.

10-Year Project Dredges Up New Life in Lake Seminole

Lake Seminole is already experiencing new life now that a decade-long project is complete.

It was 10 years ago that Pinellas County partnered with Southwest Florida Management District on a mission to improve water quality at the lake.

It had become so run down with muck sucking the nutrients out of the water, that the only thing that could survive was algae.

“When the algae blooms occur, it sucks out all of the oxygen in the water. And with no oxygen, anything living in the lake would die. So we could have a fish kill from that. Without the fish there, without the fish there, there weren’t any birds,” said Nancy Norton, senior professional engineer with Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Two years of dredging, $19 million spent, and more than 900,000 cubic yards of muck removed, and the project is nearing completion.

“Our parks department is either going to turn this into baseball fields or paths of recreation or something like that,” said Rob Barnes, environmental manager for Pinellas County, when asked what will happen to the area where the muck was dumped.

He calls it a win-win, and the lake is already seeing improved clarity and measurements.

Mote announces 2nd round of red tide projects

Mote Marine Laboratory has announced that 16 partner-led projects have been selected for the Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative; they will investigate potential solutions to mitigate the impacts of Florida red tide

SARASOTA — Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is pleased to announce 16 projects have been selected for Year 2 of the Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative. The Initiative is led by Mote in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative was established and supported by state appropriations starting in June 2019. It focuses on uniting the best and brightest scientists from around the world in game-changing efforts to reduce impacts of Florida red tides, blooms of the toxin-producing algae species Karenia brevis.

The first round of projects was announced in early 2020, and included innovative projects such as deriving compounds from brewer’s spent grain, a byproduct from the beer brewing process, and testing its ability to control Florida red tide and its toxins. There are now more than 20 current research projects as part of the Initiative that includes 12 different partnering institutions and organizations. Read about all projects here. Additionally, Mote’s research facility infrastructure continues to expand in order to accommodate Initiative projects and provide safe spaces to test mitigation technologies and methods in a controlled setting.

“The projects selected for this round are made up of extremely diverse and innovative technologies, something that is really exciting for us at Mote and impactful for the Initiative,” said Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “We know that there will be no one single silver bullet for mitigating red tide and its effects, so we are supporting developing technologies and methodologies that range from physical to chemical controls, early prevention to bloom treatment, projects led by universities, independent nonprofits like Mote, and for-profit businesses. We know that when we bring in the best and brightest from a variety of sectors we’re more likely to find solutions, and that’s what makes the Initiative such an exciting endeavor.”

Kevin Claridge, Associate Vice President for Sponsored Research and Coastal Policy Programs at Mote, said: “We’ve had tremendous success with our first round of partner projects, even despite the challenges that COVID-19 has presented. I think that success led to more wanting to be a part of this exciting Initiative. In total, the Initiative has received approximately 60 proposals from state, national, and international scientists – and we’re very pleased with the sixteen we’ve chosen for Year 2.”

A panel of scientists from eight different agencies and institutions reviewed the partner led grant proposals submitted, and the strongest proposals were presented to the Red Tide Initiative Technical Advisory Council on October 2, 2020. The sixteen Mote and partner-led projects will be awarded over $2.1 million in total grant support.

Learn more about the Red Tide Initiative and the full list of Mote and partner-led projects at redtidemtdi.org

Experts brainstorm ways to meet growth demands while protecting water supplies

The Nature Conservancy's Florida Chapter estimates roughly 1,000 people were moving to Florida every day before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter's Executive Director Temperince Morgan says that rapid growth is stretching the state's water resources.

"Our current demands are exceeding our current supplies from traditional sources. We're seeing drawdowns and impacts to springs, lakes, and wetlands and other water bodies around the state," Morgan says.

Morgan says demand for freshwater will keep going up, especially in places like Central Florida, where more people are choosing to live.

"In recent years, public water supply demand has, for the first time in Florida history, begun to exceed agricultural demand. And the vast majority of that public water supply demand is for irrigation. So, to irrigate our lawns," Morgan says.

Her group is partnering with the University of Florida and a developer to study a new irrigation-free community—meaning a neighborhood that replaces grassy lawns with plants that are meant to live in Florida's specific climate without the need for frequent watering.