Water-Related News

HUD sending additional $791 million to Florida for hurricane recovery

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will send $791 million to Florida through its Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program to help homes and buildings damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Matthew.

U.S. HUD Sec. Ben Carson made the announcement on Tuesday morning. HUD sent $616 million to Florida back in November to help hurricane recovery efforts.

“It’s clear that a number of states and local communities are still struggling to recover from a variety of natural disasters that occurred in the past three years,” Carson said. “These grants will help rebuild communities impacted by past disasters and will also protect them from major disasters in the future.”

Most of the money, almost $633.5 million, will go to support “mitigation activities” which HUD describes as "actions taken to protect people and property from the predictable damage from future events and can include elevating homes, property buyouts, and hardening structures from wind and water." Almost $550 million of that is in response to disasters from 2017 with the remainder, almost $84 million, in response to disasters from 2016. More than $158 million has been set aside to restore homes, businesses and infrastructure that were damaged by the storms.

HUD will issue more guidelines on how the CDBG-DR Program funds will be spent in the coming weeks. The state will now craft a disaster recovery plan which will include recommendations with local and citizen input on how the funds will be spent.

Project EAGLE annual lakes cleanup is April 28th

This annual chain of lakes clean-up has become a long-standing tradition over the years. The staging area is at Lake Shipp Park beginning at 8:00 am for registration, tee shirt and supplies. Choose a lake of your choice, clean up, then join other volunteers for lunch back at Lake Shipp Park starting at noon. Family-friendly activities will begin at 10:00 a.m. such as environmental and educational showings, face painting, rock painting/hiding, bounce house, music, and more!

Project E.A.G.L.E. will provide gloves and bags if you need them. Volunteers can either walk the shore or bring a watercraft of choice from which to work. Watercraft volunteers should bring gloves and a net or pike pole to collect trash.

Project E.A.G.L.E volunteers are dedicated to removing litter from the lakes and shorelines, committed to the well-being of the lakes and "just having fun getting their hands dirty for a good cause".

FSU Research: Urban growth leads to shorter, more intense wet seasons in Florida peninsula

New research from Florida State University scientists has found that urban areas throughout the Florida peninsula are experiencing shorter, increasingly intense wet seasons relative to underdeveloped or rural areas.

The study, published in the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, provides new insight into the question of land development's effect on seasonal climate processes.

Using a system that indexed urban land cover on a scale of one to four -- one being least urban and four being most urban -- the researchers mapped the relationship between land development and length of wet season.

"What we found is a trend of decreasing wet-season length in Florida's urban areas compared to its rural areas," said Vasu Misra, associate professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science and lead investigator of the study.

According to Misra's research, changing land cover over the past 40 to 60 years has resulted in a decrease in wet-season length by 3.5 hours per year in Florida's most urban areas compared to its most rural areas.

However, the linear trends of seasonal rainfall accumulation over that same period were found to have remained relatively stable across Florida's diverse land cover regions.

Gov. Scott vetoes 'toilet-to-tap' bill

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Gov. Rick Scott sided with environmentalists Friday by vetoing a so-called "toilet to tap" bill that would have allowed treated wastewater to be pumped back into the state's groundwater.

With that pen stroke, Scott avoided the epithet "Governor Poopy Water," something environmentalists had vowed to call him if he let the bill become law.

"Protecting Florida's environment has been a top priority during my time as governor," Scott said in the veto letter. "Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way."

Scott hasn't always been popular with environmental groups, and the decision will head off criticism as he prepares a run for U.S. Senate.

A group calling itself Citizens Against Contaminated Aquifer Water, or CACA Water for short, canceled a news conference scheduled for Monday in a last-minute effort to persuade Scott to veto the bill.

"I am surprised by this, for sure, and pleasantly surprised by this, of course," said event organizer Brian Lee, who chairs the Leon County Soil and Water Conservation District. "I hope that means he was listening to the people."

Several environmental groups urged people to call and email the governor's office in opposition to the bill. The Clean Water Network of Florida has used the slogan "Toilet to tap — let's flush it." That group and others used social media to promote the "Governor Poopy Water" nickname if Scott signed the legislation.

Proponents of the bill said that treated water injected into aquifers would have met federal drinking water standards and would have helped sustain water resources and supplies.

But opponents said federal water standards don't test for things such as pharmaceuticals, which could be spread through human waste.

Scott is expected to announce Monday that he'll challenge three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in this year's election.

2018 hurricane season expected to be an active one

While images of destruction caused by last year's battery of hurricanes are still fresh in the minds of many Americans, including those living on Puerto Rico where after six months power is not fully restored, forecasters are cautioning the public to brace themselves for another busy hurricane season.

Researchers at Colorado State University predict this will be a slightly above-average season, with 14 tropical storms in 2018. Seven are expected to become hurricanes, which have a wind speed of at least 74 mph. Three of those seven are expected to be major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, with winds reaching a minimum of 111 mph.

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs from June 1 through the end of November.

"Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted," researchers say.

By comparison, 2017 had a total of 17 named storms — with 10 becoming hurricanes and six of them major hurricanes — including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. But that number exceeded forecasters' expectations, including the team from CSU. The university had only anticipated 11 tropical storms with four becoming hurricanes.

Opinion: It’s time to reconsider cisterns

By Tom Palmer, published April 7th, 2018 in the Lakeland Ledger

The looming water supply problems in this part of Florida have revived some talk of an old idea: cisterns.

Cisterns have been used in various parts of the world for centuries.

In case you’re unfamiliar with cisterns, they are simply water-tight containers of various sizes that are used to collect and store rainwater for future use.

The concept was part of a discussion at the recent Polk County Water School that I attended to give local government officials and some other invited folks a chance to hear the latest about local water issues and solutions.

In the current terminology, cisterns could be viewed as another alternative water supply.

You may hear this term regularly if you’re following local water supply issues because the best research has determined that tapping the Floridan aquifer to supply all of our water needs is coming to an end.

That’s because continuing to pump increased quantities of water from the aquifer at the rate we have done in the past is unsustainable.

That’s where alternative water supplies come in.

This word about the approaching end of business-as-usual in the water supply world is coming out at the same time as a series of in-depth studies conducted in conjunction with a regional effort called the Central Florida Water Initiative. This initiative grew out of an earlier effort to forge a regional plan for supplying water and heading off the kind of water wars that raged in the Tampa Bay area in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you want to know the effect of unsustainable water pumping, the Tampa Bay area offers plenty of lessons.

I recently received a 2010 report to the Florida Legislature from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that contained a map depicting a 50-year boundary for salt-water intrusion in the Floridan aquifer that extends to the outskirts of Brandon. It leaves you to wonder how close to Polk County the 100-year boundary will be.

Polluters are dumping into Florida waterways

Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Florida’s waterways 270 times over 21 months, the tenth worst total in the nation, according to a new report by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center. However, the facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution. Environment Florida Research and Policy Center is releasing its Troubled Waters report as the federal government tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

“All Florida waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida. “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment, and they aren’t being held accountable.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Florida Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, both in Florida and across the country.

Lakeland Water Utilities Offering toilet rebate

LAKELAND – The City of Lakeland is currently offering a rebate up to $100 toward the purchase of an efficient water saving toilet. Older toilets us more than 3.5 gallons per flush and newer units use a water conserving 1.28 gallons per flush. Switching to a newer, low-flush unit will help meet water conservation needs. Using less water ultimately results in lower water bills.

In order to qualify, a homeowner must be a City of Lakeland Water Utility customer. Homes with private water wells do not qualify for this program. Toilets being removed must currently use 3.5 gallons per flush or more. The newer replacement toilets must use 1.28 gallons per flush and be recognized as a Watersense unit. Toilets installed prior to October 2017 do not qualify. Limit is two toilet rebates per household for residential customers.

A City of Lakeland Water Utility customer can follow these steps to see if their current toilet qualifies for a rebate. Homes built before 1989 with the original toilets typically have high-flow units. Low-flow toilets are in homes built after 1995 or if a homeowner purchased toilets after 1995. An easy way to see if a toilet is high-flow or low-flow is to look behind the seat hinge on the bowl to see the listed GPF. If the GPF is 3.5, 5 or 7 then the toilet is high flow and qualifies for a rebate. If the GPF is 1.6 or 1.28 the toilet is low-flow and does not qualify.

Homeowners can also take the tank lid off and check the inside back of the tank to review the manufacture’s date stamp. If the year is 1989 or before then the toilet qualifies. If the year is 1995 – present, then the toilet is low-flow and does not qualify. To find out more about the rebate program and to fill out the application, visit the link below.

SWFWMD performing prescribed burns in Polk County to reduce fire risk

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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 spring. That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns April through June on the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve Hampton Tract property in Polk County.

The Hampton Tract property is located north of Rock Ridge Road and east of U.S. Highway 98, north of Lakeland. Approximately 1,083 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. To learn more about why igniting prescribed burns now prepares lands for the next wildfire season, view this video:

“Data is king”: Analysis confirms projections of sea level rise models

No more computer models or projections. Finally – concrete data.

A scientific paper published in February may pave the way for a new conversation about rising sea levels using data instead of projections.

Gary Mitchum, co-author of the paper and Associate Dean at the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, says the research is more than just another explanation of the effects of global climate change.

“In science, data is king,” Mitchum said. “I’ve been telling people I think it’s a game-changer in that the discussion can now switch from is this just an error in the models, the computer models, or is it really in the data?’’

The paper immediately received international attention and went viral within the scientific community.

The team of researchers began compiling data in 1993. They released the statistics from satellite altimetry, the measurement of height or altitude from a satellite.

“We’re hoping that what this is going to do is allow people to stop worrying about the fact that it’s only the models seeing it, that we actually see it in the data now too and we can have a conversation about what we need to be doing,” Mitchum said.

Using data from 25 years of observation, researchers concluded that previous projections by computer models were accurate with 99 percent confidence. The global average sea level rose about 3 millimeters per year.

Now, the scientific community has recorded data that confirms these research methods.

Salmon farming in Florida? It's a possibility.

What was once a sprawling tomato field near Homestead is being turned over in stages for a new crop: Atlantic salmon.

Yes, you read that right. Salmon, fresh from Florida, the land of palm trees and gators.

Turns out the cold-water, protein-rich fish are well-suited for an innovative approach to salmon farming in the tropics, and southern Florida offers the ideal geological structure for this endeavor in aquaculture: the world’s largest land-raised salmon farm.

“Up to now, what has been holding up salmon from growing and feeding the world is that it has been stuck at the ends of the Earth and has be to be flown around. We’re changing that,” said José Prado, chief financial officer of Atlantic Sapphire, the Norwegian company that is constructing a $130-million, 380,000-square-foot facility to hatch, grow and process salmon — all on land. “We call it world-class local.”

State sues to force repairs to two water systems in Polk County

BARTOW – The state has filed lawsuits against the owner of two private water systems, asking the court to enforce agreements mandating improvements.

The systems, Alturas Utilities southeast of Bartow and Sunrise Utilities in Auburndale, collectively serve about 350 residential customers and a handful of commercial accounts.

In 2017, Stuart Sheldon, representing the respective utilities, signed consent orders with the state agreeing to upgrade and repair the two systems, according to the lawsuit, but none of the deadlines set forth in the orders has been met. Roland Reis, chief legal counsel with the Florida Department of Health office in Bartow, said Tuesday the maintenance issues haven’t impacted the water quality in either system. The lawsuits, filed Friday in Circuit Court, are intended to avoid that problem, he said.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” he said, “to keep the systems from falling into disrepair and maybe a catastrophic situation.”

The state already has imposed fines totaling about $5,300 against both Alturas and Sunrise, he said, and the owners face more fines if repairs aren’t completed.

County drainage project to close Fussell Road in Polk City

POLK CITY — Starting April 2nd, a Polk County drainage project to upgrade a pair of stormwater pipes will close Fussell Road about a half-mile east of the intersection with State Road 33 north of Polk City for two weeks or possibly longer.

Work is needed to complete a project that was halted by Hurricane Irma in September. Current dry weather has created favorable conditions to let workers finish the delayed work.

To safely expedite the installation, through-traffic will be detoured along Deen Still Road and Old Grade Road to bypass the work zone. Depending on their destination, this detour could be lengthy for local commuters.

Contact Bill Skelton with the Polk County Roads & Drainage Division at 863-535-2200 for further details.

Article updated using information from Polk County news release. —Editor

Funds for 2nd phase of Se7en Wetlands project stripped from state budget

MULBERRY —Lakeland’s newest park will soon open to the public, but visitors will have to wait longer than the city hoped for the second phase of planned amenities.

Gov. Rick Scott recently vetoed $800,000 for an additional phase of the wetland area, scheduled to open April 14. It’s not the first time Scott has been tight on funds for the park: He denied half the city’s funding request for $900,000 in 2016.

“We are certainly disappointed in the final budget appropriation decision,” Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado said in an email. “It seems as though the veto may have been a reaction to the project being assumed to be associated with a wastewater facility and not the true scope of the conservation and recreation land development.”

Se7en Wetlands is a 1,600-acre water-treatment area where Lakeland’s already-treated wastewater has been sent for three decades for further cleansing. The water meanders through seven retention areas, treating the water even more before it is sent into the Alafia River or used as cooling water at Tampa Electric’s Polk Power Station.

The city of Lakeland bought the land, which is in Mulberry, from a phosphate company in the 1980s to create the treatment area. The land drops incrementally 80 feet from holding area number one, adjacent to Eaglebrook golf course, to holding area number seven, close to Highway 60. Water distribution ditches line the top parts of each area, with openings every 100 feet gently pouring the water into the next retention wetland. Se7en Wetlands is connected to the Tampa Bay estuary via the Alafia River.

“While this decision is not ideal, we do plan on continuing with our phased scope of work as funding permits,” said Julie Vogel, an environmental-program specialist with Lakeland’s water utilities department. She oversees the park. “We are actively seeking grant and other funding opportunities.”

Florida receives $26.5M in funding for conservation and sportsmen access

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Midway, FL – On March 20th, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced $26,588,009 million in funding for Florida from revenues generated by the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration acts. The announcement was made by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan from the Joe Budd Youth Conservation Center, which provides students the opportunity to learn about aquatic ecology, archery, angling and hunting in a natural setting.

The funds, which are distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, support critical state conservation and outdoor recreation projects. They are derived from excise taxes paid by the hunting, archery, shooting, boating and angling industries on firearms, archery equipment, ammunition, sport fishing equipment, and a portion of gasoline tax attributable to motorboat fuel and small engines.

The recipient state wildlife agencies have matched these funds with approximately $6.7 billion throughout the years, primarily through hunting and fishing license revenues.