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

Water-Related News

Blue-Green Algae Task Force approves 1st recommendations

Task Force comes to consensus on first set of water quality improvement recommendations

TALLAHASSEE – This week, the Blue-Green Algae Task Force met and approved its first set of recommendations to address water quality and harmful algal blooms.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force is an advisory body, appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis, to aid the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in fulfilling its mission to protect, conserve and manage the state’s natural resources and enforce its environmental laws. The task force, through its discussion and deliberations, provides guidance and specific, science-based recommendations with the goal of expediting improvements and restoration of Florida’s water bodies that have been adversely affected by blue-green algae blooms.

“I appreciate the time the task force members and the public have invested in these important discussions. This commitment is a testament to the passion these leading scientists and residents of our state have for the protection of our natural resources,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. ”I look forward to utilizing these recommendations to identify regulatory and management strategies to expedite water quality improvements.”

“The recommendations released by the task force are the result of a deliberative and transparent process and reflect DEP’s commitment as a state agency to science-based decision making. These recommendations will undoubtedly be used to inform viable and effective policy,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazer. “The task force will continue to meet and will delve even more deeply into a broader suite of issues related to water quality and algal blooms moving forward.”

A copy of the consensus document can be found on the Blue-Green Algae Task Force website.

SJRWMD ranks ag projects for share in $1.56M of grants

District has funded 85 ag cost-share projects since July 2015

PALATKA — Thirteen agricultural projects will share in $1.56 million from the St. Johns River Water Management District to improve water conservation and reduce nutrient loading to area waterways. Projects approved by the district’s Governing Board on Tuesday are estimated to collectively conserve 2.37 million gallons of water each day and reduce total nitrogen by 38,222 pounds per year and total phosphorus by 5,483 pounds per year.

“This cost-share program assists farmers and growers with implementing projects that conserve water and result in nutrient load reductions,” said District Executive Director Ann Shortelle. “Since the program began in July 2015, we have funded 85 partnership projects that support sustainable farming practices and protect the environment while also increasing farms’ production and quality.”

Per the project ranking approved by the board at Tuesday’s meeting, the following Orange County project will receive funds this cycle:

  • Mercer Botanicals Inc., irrigation retrofit

The district received 22 applications for projects seeking funds through the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Districtwide Ag Cost-share Program for projects in the 15 counties outside the Tri-County Agricultural Area (portions of Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties), which has its own separate funding program for agricultural projects.

The types of projects eligible for funding include irrigation system retrofits, soil moisture and climate sensor telemetry, rainwater harvesting, subirrigation drain tile and more. The program is entirely voluntary and includes a requirement that funding recipients modify their consumptive use permits to memorialize the actual water reductions resulting from the district’s monetary contribution.

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Infrastructure project helps protect water quality in Lake Apopka

PALATKA — The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board awarded a contract Tuesday for construction services for a water quality project at the district’s Lake Apopka North Shore.

“Our focus remains centered on projects that bring us closer to our goal of restoring the lake’s water quality,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Working in tandem with our other restoration projects at the lake, this project will help improve water quality in Lake Apopka.”

The contract is for construction of a pump station and was awarded to Intercounty Engineering, Inc.

The pump station is part of a larger infrastructure project that will allow water managers to hold and treat water on the Lake Apopka North Shore more effectively by raising levees, providing the ability to pump water to higher elevation, and providing better access to the treatment systems during and after major storm events.

Once complete, the project is estimated to reduce the discharge of total phosphorus to Lake Apopka by 143 pounds per year.

Herbicide Application on Little Lake Conway (NE Finger Canals), 10/11

The Environmental Protection Division is performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 10/11/19.

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 Lake Rose, 10/8

OCAlerts logo

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 10/8/19.

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.

Report: Florida’s water supplies under extreme pressure

State, water management districts and local utilities promote conservation, reclaimed water and new sources in response and preparation of the state’s expanding population.

Given its birth and death rates and constant influx of newcomers, Florida’s population is increasing by more than 900 people daily.

That expanding population requires water — water to drink, cook, bathe, grow food, even operate power plants.

The Florida Office of Economic & Demographic Research says the statewide daily demand for water, 6.4 billion gallons as of 2015, is projected to increase by 17% in the next 20 years to more than 7.5 billion gallons as the population climbs to 25.2 million. That demand could be higher and the availability of that water lessened if climate change increases the frequency of droughts.

Not one of Florida’s five water management districts, which oversee permits for water supplies, “can meet its future demand solely with existing source capacity,” the agency stated in a recent report.

Congressional committee presses EPA over WOTUS rollback

A congressional subcommittee questioned the Trump administration on Wednesday over its rollback of Obama-era Clean Water Act protections.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency repealed a 2015 rule that expanded the definition of "waters of the United States," or WOTUS, a definition intended to clarify which waterways and wetlands are federally regulated.

In prepared testimony delivered Wednesday, David Ross, an administrator in the EPA's water office, said the Obama-era rules "failed to adequately recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of states to manage their own land and water resources."

Congressional Democrats criticized the repeal, contending it will lead to more pollution and threaten drinking water. Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio said industry "can dump whatever they want in [the water] because it's an economic value to them. And then it just flows over the border to another state. If their people want to drink it, that's their problem."

Septic tanks eyed in efforts to combat algae

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection should be teamed with health officials who permit septic tanks as the state tries to ensure cleaner waterways, members of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force agreed Wednesday.

Expanding oversight of the state’s millions of septic tanks was among a list of general recommendations that received some support Wednesday from the five-member task force as part of a draft report.

The report, based on topics reviewed so far, is expected to provide guidance for lawmakers as they approach the 2020 legislative session.

But task force members, who met this week in Naples, made clear they still intend to tackle issues about wastewater reuse or recycled water and agriculture and urban uses of herbicides and fertilizers, topics they have not fully addressed.

Water Management District board vacancies concern some conservationists

The Southwest Florida Water Management Board met this week. At last.

The board had to cancel a meeting recently because it lacked enough members present to have a quorum. Only seven of its 13 seats were filled at the time, and one member did not attend. The other vacant seats were awaiting appointments from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

And while the water management district has now approved its $202 million budget and its tax rate for homeowners in the 16 counties it covers, some conservationists are looking at water district board vacancies with concern. Is DeSantis living up to his environmental agenda announced in January, or is he dragging his feet?

“He has made some bold promises to improving water quality, and we're going to continue to advocate for that and hold them accountable for those promises,” said Jaclyn Lopez, the Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“And we know that there are a lot of things going on that should be concluding, you know, right around now at the end of summer, beginning of fall,” Lopez said. “So we'll start to see if the administration is able to put his money where his mouth is and really deliver on some of the promises of improving Florida's water quality.”

Lopez added it is crucial that the water districts address red tide and blue-green algae blooms statewide. A task force on blue-green algae held its last meeting Wednesday, but its recommendations have not yet been sent to the water districts to be implemented.

Other water districts have received speedier attention. In South Florida, where the sugar industry and Everglades restoration are high-profile issues, DeSantis quickly moved to replace the entire South Florida Water Management District Board in January after it refused to put off a November 2018 vote on a new sugar farming lease that he wanted to review.

Harris Chain to host YETI FLW College Fishing Tournament

LEESBURG – Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today that Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes will host the 2020 YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship. The tournament, set for Feb. 26-28, will showcase the top collegiate anglers from across the nation.

While the Harris Chain of Lakes has hosted multiple FLW events over the years, the YETI FLW College Fishing circuit has never visited the fishery.

“I can’t think of a better place to be bass fishing than Florida in February,” said Kevin Hunt, Director of Tournament Operations for YETI FLW College Fishing. “The Harris Chain of Lakes always kicks out impressive weights when we’re in town and we couldn’t be more excited to have the sport’s next generation of stars compete on one of the top fisheries in the country.”

The championship event, hosted by Lake County, Florida, will launch from the Venetian Gardens’ Ski Beach, located at 201 E. Lake Harris Drive in Leesburg.

Florida Gov. DeSantis rolls out environmental proposals

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants lawmakers to double fines for sewage spills into waterways and to lock an environmental-funding pledge into state budgets for at least the next three years.

The proposals are the first of a series the governor said he will make ahead of the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January. Lawmakers returned to Tallahassee on Monday to start holding committee meetings to prepare for the session.

Doubling fines for sewage spills would eliminate what DeSantis described as a “slap me on the wrist” approach to penalties for local governments. Civil penalties are now up to $10,000 a day, DeSantis said during an appearance last week at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center in Naples.

“What we end up seeing happening is, you have some of these municipalities, it’s cheaper for them to pay a fine and spew all this sewage into the waterways, because it’s the cost of doing business,” DeSantis said. “They’d rather do that than invest in the infrastructure they need to make sure the waterways surrounding them are safe and clean.”

DeSantis noted, for example, spills that have occurred into Tampa Bay.

Riverkeeper: 'Alarming' findings in annual St. Johns River report

Environmentalists, including the St. Johns Riverkeeper, are calling the latest report on the St. Johns River alarming.

The report shows an increase in phosphorus, metals and more loss of wetlands.

The Riverkeeper says an increase in phosphorus could fuel blue-green algae breakouts. When the river’s health is in decline, it could have impacts for everyone, including some fishermen like Michael Harvilicz.

Harvilicz, who caught a fish on Monday, says not all of the fish he’s caught look as good.

“It’s sad because it’s an almost cancer-like condition, they’re very gross and wouldn’t think of taking these fish and eating them,” Harvilicz said.

The Vietnam veteran also says he caught a flesh-eating bacteria from the water.

“This is what you have to do if you’re throwing a net in,” Harvilicz says as he puts on rubber gloves. He wishes he could help keep the river healthy.