An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Orange County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Now you can take your boater safety exam online

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FWC now allows online providers to offer boating safety exam

Access to Florida’s Boater Education Temporary Certificate Program has been expanded, thanks to work done by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to make allowances for online course providers to offer the required courses over the internet.

In August of 2017, the FWC amended Florida Administrative Code 68D-36.108 to allow the temporary certificate exam to be offered in an online version. This change makes it easier and more convenient for both vessel operators and vessel liveries to comply with Florida’s boater education laws, which require liveries to verify that customers born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, have met Florida’s boating safety education requirements before allowing them to rent their vessels.

Online temporary certificate exam providers will create a system that allows 24-hour, seven-day a week accessibility to the exam using tablets, laptops, or other electronic devices. This added convenience will make it easier for both visitors and residents by allowing them to take the test before a vacation to Florida.

Currently, one online boating safety education provider, Boat Ed, has completed the process to offer the exam online. Boat Ed has been a leader and innovator in boating safety education since 1995. Study or learning materials are available on the Boat Ed site to prepare students for the exam, improve their boating knowledge and increase their chances of successfully completing the exam on the first try. The exam costs $3 and study materials are available for an additional charge. A link to the exam can be found at Boat-Ed.com/FloridaRental/.

Prior to this change, paper exams were the only option and were required to be completed and passed by rental vessel operators. The ability for liveries to continue to offer paper exams has not changed with the addition of this online option. Liveries can still purchase and administer the paper exams, as long as their contract and insurance are valid.

The temporary certificate exam is a knowledge check, not a full education course. It cannot be converted into a boater safety identification card that is valid for life. Temporary certificates are not valid in any other state and do not meet boater safety education requirements in other states.

The online exam will be 25 questions, randomly selected from a large pool of questions. The cost for the exam will remain $3. Upon successful completion of the exam, students will be provided an electronic proof of their successful completion and their passing score. A livery will be able to inspect this proof to ensure that a prospective vessel renter has met Florida’s boating safety education requirements.

The new change offers various benefits to liveries:

  • Liveries are not required to contract with any other company to use the online exam.
  • A link that will send customers directly to the online exam can be provided by liveries.
  • Liveries are not required to continue purchasing paper exams from the FWC.
  • The burden of mailing paper tests back to the FWC is removed with the online option.
  • Liveries will be able to provide speedier service to customers who take the exam in advance of renting.

The FWC encourages liveries to transition to the new online exam system to increase accessibility and streamline the testing process for renters interested in enjoying Florida’s beautiful waterways by boat.

Report outlines Florida’s major environmental concerns

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Spoiler alert: Three of the six are about water

A coalition of environmental and other organizations is distributing a sternly worded report to all candidates in Florida for federal and state offices about worsening threats to the state’s natural resources.

On Wednesday, the alliance publicly released “Trouble in Paradise,” an initiative started by Nathaniel Pryor Reed, a conservationist and co-founder of 1,000 Friends of Florida who died recently.

“Tragically, he did not live to see this report to fruition,” Paul Owens, president of 1,000 Friends of Florida, said during a media conference.

To complete Reed’s final initiative, the 1,000 Friends organization partnered with Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Florida Springs Council, Florida Wildlife Corridor, Florida Wildlife Federation, the Howard T. Odom Florida Springs Institute and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

The result is a document intended to educate this state’s potential elected officials about what Owens calls “the greatest challenges facing Florida’s environment.”

Although the organizations are making sure paper or email editions of the report reach candidates in upcoming state and federal elections, Owens said they encourage voters to make sure contenders in local races are also aware of the findings and recommendations.

“These are critical issues at every level of government in Florida,” Owens said.

The study outlines six priorities that the partnership contends need urgent attention as well as specific geographic areas it considers especially endangered, including the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, the Indian River Lagoon, Apalachicola River and Bay and several natural springs.

Throughout the report, the authors call for enforcing environmental protections “already in place,” sufficiently funding agencies responsible for overseeing those duties, appointing “strong and effective” agency leaders and passing legislation “to restore and improve workable programs and address current and future challenges.”

Herbicide Application on Lake Wauseon Bay, 8/15

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 8/15/18. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage Hydrilla in the lake.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: NONE.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Herbicide Application on Lake Butler (Sandy Shores Canal), 8/15

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 8/15/18. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage Salvinia/Duckweed and Hydrilla in the canal.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY. DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 5 DAYS.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Orange County advises residents to practice lake safety during hurricane season

With the hurricane season officially underway, it is important residents have the information they need before, during and after any severe tropical system that affects the community. Hurricanes can bring hazards in many forms, and while Orange County is located inland, it is home to many lakes, which can also become hazardous before, during or after a storm.

With so many lakes in the Central Florida region, lake safety is particularly important during a hurricane. The runoff from heavy rains can carry pollutants and debris into the water, and may also cause temporary flooding. Lakes are also unprotected from flying debris.

Here are some lake safety tips to keep you and your family safe:

  • Before heading out on the water, check the local weather report so you are aware of any severe storm warnings. If a hurricane is threatening, save your lake plans for when the weather is more conducive to safe fun.
  • It is safest not to swim, fish or boat in a lake when water levels are high, which will most likely be the case both during and after a hurricane. Structures such as docks that used to be visible could be hidden just beneath the surface, and destroyed structures can become submerged floating hazards, both being a danger to boaters, skiers and wakeboarders. Also, boating when water levels are high may cause waves that damage property by eroding shoreline soils and possibly flood homes along the lakefront. Wildlife may also be pushed out of their natural habitats due to high waters, increasing chances for unexpected encounters.
  • Do not touch debris blocking a drainage structure, storm drain or retention pond.

“One of the great things about our region is the number of beautiful lakes our residents can enjoy, but it’s important to remember lake safety at all times, especially in the event of a hurricane,” said Jane Gregory, public information officer and program supervisor at Orange County Environmental Protection Division. “When you know a hurricane is approaching, stay off of lakes, and even after a storm leaves the area, it’s important to understand that storm dangers still exist, especially from high water levels, floating debris and possible flooding.”

To report drainage or lake concerns after severe weather, please call 3-1-1. For more information on how to prepare for a hurricane, visit www.ocfl.net/storm.

Algae monitor sponsored by NASA installed in Lake Okeechobee

Satellite images tell us every few days how an algae bloom on Lake Okeechobee — the source of blooms in the St. Lucie River — has been growing and shrinking over the summer.

Now there's a device in the middle of the lake that will give us updates every hour.

On Thursday, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce installed a SeaPRISM on a platform in the middle of Lake Okeechobee.

The sensor developed by NASA can look into the lake every hour and, by the color of the water, determine how much blue-green algae it contains.

More:TCPalm's complete coverage of water issues

The idea is for real-time data from the SeaPRISM (Photometer Revision for Incident Surface Measurements) to be relayed to NASA and be available to researchers (and the public) on the agency's Aeronet website within a couple of hours.

The hourly data will help scientists figure out how algae blooms develop and why their size fluctuates from from week to week, month to month and year to year. That information will help them predict when algae will bloom in the lake, and that could help water managers prevent blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Public workshop Aug. 16 will address Wekiva Basin MFLs in the CFWI area

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MAITLAND — The St. Johns River Water Management District will hold a public workshop to discuss the peer review of Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) for water bodies within the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) area.

This workshop will include discussion of surface water model peer review plans for MFLs water bodies within the Wekiva Basin.

The district is seeking public comment at this workshop on the district’s peer review selection criteria and on the recommended peer review panel for the surface water models that will be used in the determination and assessment of Wekiva Basin MFLs.

WHAT: Public workshop to discuss peer review selection criteria and recommended peer review panel for the surface water models that will be used for Wekiva Basin MFLs in the CFWI.

WHEN: Aug. 16, 2018, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

WHERE: SJRWMD Maitland Service Center
Wekiva and Econ rooms, 2nd floor
601 S. Lake Destiny Road
Maitland, FL 32751

To join the meeting by phone, call 1-888-670-3525 and enter passcode 4366412939#.

Establishing MFLs is an important goal in the District’s work of planning for adequate water supplies for today and for future generations while also protecting the District’s water resources. The district is setting MFLs for lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, springs and aquifers.

Herbicide Application on Lake Holden, 8/14

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 8/14/18. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage Hydrilla in the lake.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: NONE.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Herbicide Application on Little Lake Conway (NE Finger Canals), 8/10

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 8/10/18. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage algae in the canals.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY. DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 2 DAYS.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Herbicide Application on Little Lake Conway (Back Acre Canal), 8/10

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 8/10/18. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage Salvinia/Duckweed in the canal.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY. DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 5 DAYS.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Palmer: Keep an eye on local water issues

When I began covering water issues 40 years ago, the conventional wisdom in Polk County was that someday Tampa would launch a “water raid” on Polk County.

It wasn’t irrational. Utilities in the Tampa Bay area had already done that in Pasco County and had dibs on water from springs farther north as they engaged in lengthy legal battles among themselves over water allocations.

Tampa Bay utilities finally worked out their differences and later backed off from a plan to develop a giant wellfield at the edge of Polk County, which threatened to diminish Polk’s well system.

Then came the Orlando area with a proposed well permit that potentially could cause the same effect on the other side of Polk County.

Polk officials were ready to go to court to challenge the permit.

Gov. Jeb Bush stepped in and stopped another regional water war before it got started. Instead, he told everyone to work together.

That eventually resulted in the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI), an organized plan to figure out how much water was left, how much everyone needed, and how to come up with a plan to make up the projected deficits everyone faced unless they decide to slow down the development wave that created the demand for more water.

Now comes the conflict with the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority (PRMWSA).

The regional utility applied for a permit last fall to double the amount of water it could pump from the Peace River, the culmination of its own regional water planning efforts to deal with projected growth in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties while avoiding impacts on the already stressed aquifer.

Somehow the folks at the Polk Regional Water Supply Authority, which also were working on their own plan as an outgrowth of the CFWI project, didn’t know about the downstream permit request until a few months ago.

Herbicide Application on Little Lake Conway (NE Finger Canals), 7/27

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 7/27/18. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage algae in the canals.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY. DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 2 DAYS.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.