Water-Related News

Walker Road woes: Residents say park worsened flooding

LAKELAND — Joseph and Ashley Payne expected the house they bought in 2015 to be their “forever home.”

The house in northwest Lakeland sits on 3 acres, offering plenty of room for their five children to romp. Their youngest child was even born in the house.

Now, though, Joseph Payne said they are contemplating a move. The reason? In recent months, much of that 3-acre property has been covered with water.

“The other day we were at home and I told the kids, ‘Go out and play,’ and literally the only place they can play in our yard is on the septic tank,” Payne said. “That’s the only place they could go because the rest of it is just a mud pit.”

The Paynes’ property on Ollie Road borders Walker Road, a two-lane, north-south thoroughfare in a rural setting. Their home is directly west of Walker Road Park, a county facility that opened in April 2017.

Payne and residents of Walker Road complain that the creation of the park has worsened perennial flooding problems in the area. During one of the rainiest years on record in the Lakeland area, standing water has become commonplace in yards on the west side of the road.

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.

Rain barrels help environment, conserve water

According to UF/IFAS researchers, landscape irrigation makes up approximately 50 percent of household water use, so using a rain barrel “also cuts down on your water bill.”

BARTOW — During Florida’s afternoon showers, which can average one inch of rain, about 1,000 gallons of water will run off the roof of a typical Florida home.

Experts with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hoping more homeowners will capture that water in rain barrels and use it to water lawns, wash cars and fill up pools.

“Drinking-quality water is getting scarcer,” said Becky Schaffer, a master gardener since 2010. She hosted a rain barrel workshop at the UF/IFAS extension office in Bartow on Saturday morning. She said she wants people “to make efficient use of rainwater and prevent storm-water runoff carrying pollutants into our water bodies.”

According to UF/IFAS researchers, landscape irrigation makes up approximately 50 percent of household water use, so using a rain barrel “also cuts down on your water bill,” Schaffer said.

Basic instructions for making a rain barrel:

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.

SWFWMD performing prescribed burns in August and September in Polk County

Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s wildfire emergency last year. That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns in August and September on the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve Hampton Tract in Polk County.

The Hampton Tract is located north of Rock Ridge Road, east of U.S. Highway 98, north of Lakeland. Approximately 2,100 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat
  • Maintaining access for public recreation
  • The District conducts prescribed fires on approximately 30,000 acres each year. Visit the link below to watch a video that explains why igniting prescribed burns now prepares lands for the next wildfire season.

Water conservation rebates and incentives available

BARTOW – The Polk Regional Water Conservation Team and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) are working to bring rebates and incentives to water customers of Polk County. The goal is to help save water and money on water bills. Not all of the programs listed below are available at all utilities. Please call your utility provider to confirm participation.


Water Conservation Kits containing a low-flow showerhead, faucet aerators for kitchen and bath, toilet leak detector tabs, and more are available free of charge.

Toilet Rebates Homes and businesses built in or before 1994 that currently have 3.5 (or more) gallon per flush toilets would qualify for this rebate. Limit 2 per home. Rebate is $75-$100 per toilet. The utility provider must be contacted before removal and installation.

Rain Sensors Free wireless rain sensors are available if you currently have an automatic irrigation system.

Smart Irrigation Controller Rebate for homes and businesses who use more than 15,000 gallons of water per month. A 75% rebate, up to $300 including installation.

Landscape Retrofit Rebate for businesses, HOAs, and homes using more than 15,000 gallons of water per month. This rebate is approximately 75% (or up to $3,000) for those who agree to change out a minimum of 250 square feet of high water-use landscape and irrigation for Florida-Friendly™ plants and low-flow or no-flow irrigation.

Landscape and Irrigation Evaluation for homes and businesses who use more than 15,000 gallons of water per month. Our contractor will replace your current rain sensor and lower your irrigation run times if necessary, review your plant and irrigation placement, check for breaks and make recommendations for reducing your water use. Cost is free.

Who to Contact

  • Auburndale — Rachel Mott — (863) 965-5500
  • Dundee — Clifton Bernard — (863) 538-8330
  • Haines City — Mary Hayes — (863) 421-3695
  • Lake Alfred — Sue Gaudlap — (863) 298-5458
  • Lake Hamilton — Sara Irvine — (863) 439-1910
  • Lakeland — Daphne McCann — (863) 834-6193
  • Mulberry — Ron Borchers (863) 425-1125 x-251
  • Polk City — Chastity Hall — (863) 984-1375
  • Winter Haven — Keeli Carlton — (863) 291-5853 x678
  • Unincorporated Polk County — Jacqueline Hollister — (863) 298-4236

Florida LAKEWATCH volunteers needed!

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Florida LAKEWATCH was created by the state legislature in 1991 to enhance scientific knowledge about state lakes. According to University of Florida IFAS Natural Resources and Conservation Extension Agent Shannon Carnevale, LAKEWATCH has sampled approximately 100 lakes over its 20-year history but few of them have continuous, long-term data.

“Because of this, we are hoping to add new LAKEWATCH volunteers to some of the program’s historical lakes,” Carnevale said. If you live on one of the “most wanted” lakes, have a functional boat and are willing to donate around two hours of time per month, experts need your help taking water samples. Sampling kits are provided. New volunteers get two hours of hands on training.

The “most wanted” lakes are: Ashton, Bonnett, Blue North, Cummings, Cypress, Dexter, Dinner, Eloise, Fannie, Gem, Halloway, Henry, Ida, Mabel, Mountain, Parker, Ring, River, Rochelle, Starr, Van and Wailes. Email Shannon Carnevale for more information.

Florida Cabinet to vote on BS Ranch

LAKELAND — Residents in East Lakeland have smelled and talked about the stench from BS Ranch off and on for more than a year.

Now, Gov. Rick Scott will have a chance to hear about it.

Scott and the Florida Cabinet will vote Aug. 14 on whether to uphold an administrative judge’s decision that stated the county was not in compliance when it made a change to its comprehensive plan after BS Ranch & Farm began running its solid waste facility.

The county has challenged Tallahassee-based Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk’s decision in March that officials never offered any evidence during a hearing last December to counter the initial approval of BS Ranch’s development in East Lakeland.

Edward de la Parte, a Tampa lawyer hired by the county, said he will argue that Van Wyk exceeded the scope of her authority.

“She improperly expanded her authority to determine whether the land development code was in compliance,” de la Parte said.

In addition, de la Parte said Van Wyk infringed on the commission’s ability to make policy decisions.

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.

Regional water authority hopes to get litigation dismissed

Utilities in Polk County want to block Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority’s expansion plans

The regional authority that supplies water to the counties of Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto and the city of North Port is attempting to get a lawsuit filed against it by seven government entities in Polk County dismissed or settled.

The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority is a coalition comprised of Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties that dates back to 1982. Its mission is to interconnect utility systems to ensure water keeps flowing across jurisdictional boundaries.

From its treatment plant on the Peace River, which it acquired from a private utility in 1991, the authority now supplies about 28.2 million gallons daily to three of its four county members and to non-member North Port.

Although it does not need the additional supply now, the authority seeks a permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to create a third reservoir at its treatment plant in DeSoto County and increase its withdrawals from the river during the rainy season from a maximum of 120 million gallons a day to 258 million gallons a day. Most of its withdrawals are stored in underground aquifer systems and then pumped out during the dry season to meet its commitments to customers.

In May, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative (joined by Polk County and the cities of Bartow, Fort Meade, Lakeland, Wauchula and Winter Haven) filed litigation against the Peace River authority and the water management district. The plaintiffs want the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings to block the water management district from issuing the water use permit.

Utilities in Polk County currently rely on ground water and do not withdraw from the Peace River. Yet, according to their complaint, “traditional groundwater supplies may be insufficient to satisfy the existing and future water supply demand of Polk County in a sustainable manner.”

Haines City re-implements fire, stormwater fees

HAINES CITY — Assessments came with some pushback from just a few residents, but the City Commission moved forward with re-implementing them during Thursday’s meeting.

The commission voted 5-0 to keep both the stormwater fee and fire assessment fee in place. Those fees can only be used toward funding those particular services.

With the questions being asked about the two fees, commissioners advocated workshops to help educate the public in how the assessments work. Mayor Morris West inquired about bringing back a Citizen’s Academy.

“The water continues to run off, ruining the roads, eating at the foundation of my house,” resident Steven Glazier said. “I haven’t seen any justification for additional taxes. I can’t tell that anything is being done.”

Only very large homes would be assessed more based on a new methodology which continues to pay for, in part, costs resulting from state and federal mandates by using equivalent residential units or ERUs. Special counsel Mark Lawson said most of the single-family homeowners in the city would not see a rate increase from last year’s charge of $59.24 for a typical house.

“At the end of the day, we’re putting money toward nonsense,” resident Patrick Phillips said.

Larger parcels with more impervious area, such as roofs and parking lots, will pay slightly more. Revenue from the assessment will only fund about $593,000 or 37 percent of a $1.37 million stormwater budget.

“Stormwater – not only is it runoff – but it’s the damage it does physically and externally,” Lawson said.

Save the date for the 2018 Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival

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Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Laishley Park, 200 Laishley Court in Punta Gorda

Please help celebrate the splendor of the natural environment of Southwest Florida by sponsoring, exhibiting, volunteering and promoting the 19th Annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival on Saturday, November 17, 2018. The Festival has become an indispensable showcase of our region's activities and it is a great opportunity to spread your message, advertise your business, demonstrate your accomplishments, build your constituency, and sell your creations.

This community festival is possible because of the generous support of its sponsors. Please consider becoming a financial contributor, all sponsors will be recognized in press releases and on festival sponsor signage. If interested, please contact Jennifer Hecker.

The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Laishley Park, 120 Laishley Court, Punta Gorda, FL. Set up the day of the Festival begins at 8:00 a.m, to be completed by 9 am. All exhibitors and vendors are required to stay for the entire Festival and break down between 3 - 4 pm. Additional guidance will be sent to those who register through obtaining the appropriate category "ticket" on EventBrite. (Please note that there is no rain date or refunds.) See below for more information about each participant category:

Educational Exhibitor
An educational exhibitor is an organization that does work related to the protection and restoration of the natural environment in the CHNEP area. Educational exhibitors receive a free covered table space and chair (welcome to bring extra 2-3 folding chairs if needed) There are 40 tickets for educational exhibitors. /p>

Live Animal Exhibitor
A live animal exhibitor is an organization that wishes to bring a live ambassador animal and that does work related to wildlife in the CHNEP area. Educational exhibitors receive a free covered table space and chair (welcome to bring extra 2-3 folding chairs if needed). The live animal exhibits will be housed in a separate tent this year. There are 10 tickets for live animal exhibitors.

Kids Zone Exhibitors
An Kids Zone exhibitor is an organization in the CHNEP area that would like to offer an environmental educational activity at the festival. Kids Zone exhibitors receive a free covered table space and chair (welcome to bring extra 2-3 folding chairs if needed). The Kids Zone activity tables will be housed in a separate tent this year. There are 10 tickets for Kids Zone exhibitors.

Food vendors
If you would like to register to get one of the coveted and limited food truck spots for the event, please obtain ticket to reserve right away. There are 2 tickets available for savory food, 2 tickets available for desserts and 2 tickets available for drinks/smoothies only vendors for only $25 per vendor available on first come basis.

Nature Art / Native Plant Vendors
Vendors who wish to sell native plants or nature art that represents the wildlife and plants in the CHNEP area will be provided an open lawn space to erect their own 10' x 10' tent, with one table and one chair provided. There are 10 tickets for only $25 available on a first come basis.

Interested in helping to plan, promote of volunteer the day before and day of the event? Can you help promote the festival through a newsletter, website or correspondence? Please email chnep@chnep.org to let us know. If you have further questions or would like to talk with someone about the festival, please contact Suzie Thompson with the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (941/575-3390 toll-free 866/835-5785 or email sthompson@chnep.org).

Thank you for your support of the CHNEP. With your help, we hope to make the 19th annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival the best yet!