Water-Related News

Pass-A-Grille Beach nourishment project moves to next phase

Pass-A-Grille beach was devastated after Hurricane Idalia and now the county is working to replenish it.

PINELLAS COUNTY – Pinellas County is beginning the second phase of a beach re-nourishment project. Pass-A-Grille beach was devastated after Hurricane Idalia, and the county is working to replenish it.

"The beach is the heart of this community. So, without the beach, it's just not the same," said Olivia Durham who works at a shop near the project.

Pass-A-Grille Beach is still recovering from Hurricane Idalia. The storm battered and eroded the sandy shoreline.

"There was definitely a lot more beach front, a lot more space for people to spread out. Its definitely been cut short since then," said Durham.

Pinellas County has been working to re-nourish the beach since June, and just received authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move on to phase two of the project.

"It's always devastating to see a beach after a hurricane like that, and to see it come back to life and come back to what it was is exciting," said Durham.

Pinellas County is using tax-payer money and grants to pay for the remaining portion of the project.

The next phase will include dredging and piping 140,000 cubic yards of sand from 1st Avenue to 22nd Avenue.

Pass-a-Grille full beach nourishment to resume

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Pinellas County has received authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin full nourishment of Pass-a-Grille beach. Sand placement will begin as soon as the contractor completes its mobilization of equipment and installation of environmental protection devices.

About 5,000 to 10,000 cubic yards of sand was placed on the south end of Pass-a-Grille in June as part of the Grand Canal dredging project, completed on June 28. The contractor will relocate the dredge vessel to Pass-a-Grille inlet and will pipe an additional 140,000 cubic yards of sand to the remainder of the beach, from 1st Avenue to 22nd Avenue.

Pass-a-Grille is on a 10-year nourishment cycle and was due for sand this year. Nourishment projects like this replace sand lost to storms and normal erosion. They restore white sandy beaches that boost the County’s $10 billion annual tourism industry and provide a buffer against storm surge. Because federal nourishment projects along the Pinellas County coast are stalled, the County is funding this project through hotel bed tax dollars and state grant funding.

Once construction is fully underway, dredging will take place 24/7 with some light and noise impacts at night. This is necessary to complete the project as quickly as possible. No businesses will have to close. The first phase of the project will take place south of Paradise Grille and should be completed by mid-September. The second phase will occur north of the concession building and will be completed by mid-November, weather-permitting.

Residents and visitors should stay away from the construction zone, and boaters should avoid the dredge vessel and piping. Updates about beach access points can be found on our interactive project map.

A Piney Point settlement is reached between the state and environmental groups

They filed the federal lawsuit after around 215 million gallons of wastewater was discharged into Tampa Bay in 2021. It said the discharges caused harmful algae blooms and fish kills.

Environmental groups and the state have reached a settlement to end a federal lawsuit over management of a former phosphate plant site that leaked millions of gallons of wastewater into Tampa Bay in 2021.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Manasota-88 and Our Children’s Earth Foundation and the state Department of Environmental Protection filed a joint notice of settlement Monday involving the Piney Point site in Manatee County.

The environmental groups said in an announcement that the settlement includes the Department of Environmental Protection drafting a Clean Water Act permit “that will require more robust oversight of pollution from the Piney Point phosphate facility.” Also, the state will pay $75,000 for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to monitor water quality in the area where Piney Point’s discharges enters Tampa Bay.

The lawsuit, filed by the groups in May 2021 in the federal Middle District of Florida, alleged the Department of Environmental Protection and other defendants long mishandled the site.

Pinellas County seeks input on community flooding

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Pinellas County is assessing sea level rise and storm surge flooding and is seeking input from those who live and work in Pinellas County through a Community Flood Impact Survey.

County staff want to hear about your experiences with flooding in Pinellas County and the places and services in your community that are most important to you. The survey specifically aims to evaluate the following areas:

  • Unincorporated County (including Palm Harbor, East Lake, Highpoint, Lealman, Bardmoor, Tierra Verde, etc.)
  • Belleair
  • Belleair Beach
  • Belleair Shore
  • Indian Rocks Beach
  • Indian Shores
  • Madeira Beach
  • North Redington Beach
  • Pinellas Park
  • Redington Beach
  • Redington Shores

Through the Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Vulnerability Assessment, the County is mapping locations at risk of being flooded during high tides, heavy rain, and storm surge now and in the future. Community input from the survey will help the County understand which public facilities and community values should be prioritized as the County decides how to address the consequences of flooding.

Residents can take the Community Flood Impact Survey at: pinellas.gov/FloodSurvey

This work was funded in part through a grant agreement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection Resilient Florida Program. The views, statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the State of Florida or any of its subagencies.

State of Florida updates stormwater regulations

Governor Ron DeSantis signs updates to Florida stormwater regulations.

Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis signed SB7040 which updates environmental statutes with a number of standards recommended by the Department of Environmental protection.

The signed legislation lays out regulations that developers must comply with. Applicants seeking permits from the state must provide information through designs and plans that meet performance standards as well as meet other requirements under the revised rules.

Applicants must also demonstrate compliance with the rule’s performance standards by providing reasonable assurance through modeling, calculations, and supporting documentation that satisfy the provisions of the revised rules.5

According to an article, the legislation sets new minimum standards for stormwater treatment systems. It requires that they achieve at least an 80% reduction of the average annual post-development total suspended solids load, or a 95% reduction if the proposed project is located within an area with a watershed that contains Outstanding Florida Waters (OWF) or one located upstream.

The bill also clarifies provisions relating to grandfathered projects, or projects that have started before the bill was signed.

The bill also states that entities implementing stormwater best management practices also regulated under different provisions of the law are not subject to duplicate inspections for the same practices, and allows alternative treatment standards for redevelopment projects in areas with impaired waters.

These updated regulations come weeks after DeSantis singed the state budget that cut about $205 million in stormwater, wastewater and sewer projects.

Clearwater has a $100 million plan to prevent this neighborhood from flooding

North Beach residents have been flooded again and again. City officials are weighing their options as peak hurricane season approaches.

As Hurricane Idalia swept past Tampa Bay last summer, storm surge topped seawalls and inundated David Hooks’ Clearwater Beach neighborhood.

Though his home was spared, houses up and down Hooks’ street weren’t so lucky. Neighbors soon mounted full remodels, only to be flooded out again months later when another storm washed away progress in December.

After these back-to-back floods, city staff started to research why the area didn’t flush out as quickly as it should have, said Marcus Williamson, Clearwater’s public works director. They found decades-old stormwater pipes were unmaintained and blocked by debris. There was also a much larger issue: The network of pipes didn’t connect and many were too narrow to effectively push out floodwaters.

“At the time it was developed, it probably made sense,” Williamson said. “A lot of folks have said we’ve always struggled with flooding. It does feel like it has gotten worse.”

But booming development along the Gulf Coast coupled with rising seas fueled by climate change have pushed current stormwater infrastructure to its limits. Now, the city is looking to fund a decades-long project that may cost up to $100 million to safeguard Clearwater’s most vulnerable and low-lying neighborhood from future floods.

The city started by cleaning out pipes and upgrading valves that prevent high tide flooding from rushing into underground pipes meant to allow rainwater to drain away from streets and homes.

Pinellas County Water Shortage Order extended to September 1

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District has extended its modified Stage 1 Water Shortage to September 1, 2024, due to below average rainfall over the past year. This extension requires all residents to continue limiting watering to one day per week using the approved watering schedule for your area.

Pinellas County Utilities customers should continue to use the following irrigation schedule for reclaimed, potable, well, lake or pond water sources:

Customers north of SR580

  • Addresses ending in even numbers (0, 2, 4, 6, 8): Saturdays
  • Addresses ending in odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9): Wednesdays
  • Mixed or No Address (such as common areas, entry areas/office complexes, shopping centers and other “no address” locations): Wednesdays
  • Watering using reclaimed water is not permitted between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Watering using potable water is not permitted between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Customers south of SR580

  • Addresses ending in even numbers (0, 2, 4, 6, 8): Tuesdays
  • Addresses ending in odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9): Thursdays
  • Mixed or No Address (such as common areas, entry areas/office complexes, shopping centers and other “no address” locations): Thursdays
  • Watering using either potable or reclaimed water is not permitted between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Visit pinellas.gov/water-conservation for up-to-date information on watering schedules, water conservation tips and more.

Research finds dolphins with elevated mercury levels in Florida and Georgia

In a study with potential implications for the oceans and human health, scientists have reported elevated mercury levels in dolphins in the U.S. Southeast, with the greatest levels found in dolphins in Florida's St. Joseph and Choctawhatchee Bays.

Dolphins are considered a "sentinel species" for oceans and human health, because like us, they are high up in the food chain, live long lives, and share certain physiological traits with humans. Some staples of their diet, such as spot, croaker, weakfish and other small fish, are most vulnerable to mercury pollution and are also eaten by people.

The study, which appears in the journal Toxics, drew no conclusions about Florida and Georgia residents' mercury levels or the potential health risks to humans. It did, however, cite previous research by a different group of researchers that found a correlation between high mercury levels in dolphins in Florida's Indian River Lagoon and humans living in the area.

"As a sentinel species, the bottlenose dolphin data presented here can direct future studies to evaluate mercury exposure to human residents" in the Southeast and other potentially affected areas in the United States, the authors of the study in Toxics wrote.

EPA is asked to set blue-green algae toxin standards for Florida

Federal environmental officials had recommended criteria in 2019 for two of the most common cyanotoxins, but advocates and the mayor Stuart say Florida never implemented them, nor explained their decision not to do so.

Florida’s lakes, rivers, springs and estuaries have some of the nation’s worst toxic algae blooms, which can threaten the health of people and wildlife, while costing local economies hundreds of millions of dollars.

The blooms are said to be fueled by nutrient pollution, water-management decisions and climate change.

Now, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Calusa Waterkeeper, Friends of the Everglades, Florida Wildlife Federation, and the city of Stuart have asked the federal government to set limits on blue-green algae toxins found in Florida waters.

The EPA had officially recommended criteria in 2019 for two of the most common cyanotoxins: microcystins and cylindrospermopsin.

States are not required to adopt the EPA recommendations, but they are supposed to explain their reasoning for not adopting them, and the Center for Biological Diversity said the state has not done that.

Florida agriculture fuels algae blooms — how much remains unclear.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force wants data on the state's strategy for curbing farm-related nutrient pollution.

Nutrients from fertilizers and animal waste can move from Florida farms to waterways, fueling harmful algal blooms. But assessing farms’ nutrient pollution – and gauging the success of the state’s efforts to reduce it – remains a significant challenge.

That was one of the main takeaways from the Blue-Green Algae Task Force’s meeting on June 4 at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research & Education Center – Suwannee Valley. The Task Force convened at the center in Live Oak to learn about the science behind Florida’s strategy to manage nutrient pollution from agriculture, the state’s second-largest industry.

The lynchpin of this strategy is a set of tools and techniques known as Best Management Practices, or BMPs. The goal of BMPs is to keep nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil where they can boost crop growth – and keep them out of water where they can supercharge toxic algae that threaten public health, wildlife and local economies.

Examples of BMPs include using precision irrigation systems, cover crops and controlled release fertilizers. Florida growers in water-impaired regions must either implement BMPs or demonstrate their compliance with state standards through water quality monitoring. The state also offers cost-share assistance to bring BMP investments, such as new equipment, within farmers’ financial reach.

But just how much these practices are reducing nutrient pollution from Florida farms is unclear – and something the Task Force would like to know.