Water-Related News

Florida Forever bill heads to state Senate floor with amendment banning overhead costs

A bill seeking $100 million for Florida Forever is headed to the Senate floor with an amendment that prohibits the state from spending the money on general operations.

The state Senate budget committee passed Senate Bill 370 Thursday, the same day its chairman filed the amendment to protect the funding he seeks in the bill he filed in September.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, said he wants to make sure the state doesn't continue to spend money reserved for environmental land preservation on certain overhead costs. The amendment specifically prohibits providing the appropriation to:

  • Executive direction and support services, and technology and information services within the Department of Environmental Protection
  • Executive direction and support services, and technology services within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Executive direction and administrative support services within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Executive direction and support services within the Department of State
  • Florida, Georgia water war reaches nation's highest court

    A decades-long “water war” is now before the nation’s highest court – pitting Georgia’s use of water to supply its multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry and the booming Atlanta area, against the Sunshine State’s need for fresh water to revive its oyster business.

    The case, still sitting with the Supreme Court, is centered around the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. These freshwater sources start in Georgia, then join together and form the Apalachicola River near the Florida border, which flows into Apalachicola Bay.

    There lies what once was a thriving oyster market. A decade ago farmers could harvest nearly 20, 60-pound bags of oysters on any given day in the bay of brackish water, according to Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire. Today, he says farmers struggle to bring home one to three bags because the salinity is too high.

    Research: Oxygen Levels Continue Dropping In World's Waters

    Scientists say that climate change is having an effect on the levels of the world’s oceans.

    But it’s also apparently affecting the oxygen levels throughout the oceans, as well as our coastal waters including the Gulf of Mexico.

    That’s according to a study published in the Jan. 4 issue of Science by a team of scientists from the Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE), a working group created by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

    One of the group’s members is Brad Seibel, a professor of biological oceanography at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. He talked to University Beat about what they’ve discovered so far:

    There’s two processes at work here – and mankind may be to blame for both.

    'Soft' opening soon for massive Seven Wetlands Park in Lakeland

    The first phase of the largest park in Lakeland’s system may “soft open” as soon as February.

    The first of two phases of Seven Wetlands Park, stylized as “Se7en Wetlands,” has been completed except for signage necessary to prevent hikers in its 8.5 miles of rustic trails from getting lost.

    Once the signs are installed, the park will be open for operation, Deputy Parks Director Pam Page told commissioners Friday.

    “That’s to avoid the ‘Seven Wetlands maze’ idea,” Mayor Bill Mutz joked.

    The 1,640-acre park is named for its original purpose as a water treatment wetland, a function that will continue. It will be accessible from two Polk County parks near Mulberry: Lakeland Highlands Scrub Preserve and Loyce Harpe Park.

    As the park lies outside of Lakeland’s corporate limits, and will be as much a county amenity as a Lakeland one, the city relied on state funding to build it.

    Lake Hollingsworth Trail - temporary trail bypass

    TECO has begun work to repair an existing gas main which lies under the Lake Hollingsworth Trail on the south side of Lake Hollingsworth at the public parking lot. A temporary bypass has been set up for trail users during the construction. The work is expected to last one week. Please see the attached image for more information on the location of the work and the trail bypass as well as parking affected by the work.

    District asks homeowners to "Skip A Week" of irrigation this winter

    The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents who irrigate their lawns to “Skip a Week” or more of watering during the cooler months of January and February.

    According to research by the University of Florida, grass doesn’t need to be watered as often during the cooler months. One-half to three-quarters of an inch of water every 10–14 days is sufficient. In fact, if your lawn has received any significant rainfall, then you can turn off your irrigation system and operate it manually as needed.

    You can determine when your grass needs water when:
    • Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on at least one-third of your yard.
    • Grass blades appear blue-gray.
    • Grass blades do not spring back, leaving footprints on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it.

    Watering only every other week at most during the winter will help conserve drinking water supplies that the public needs for critical uses during the dry season.

    For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/SkipAWeek.

    Rick Scott and Trump administration strike deal: No drilling off Florida coast

    A hastily arranged airport rendezvous Tuesday ended with an announcement from President Donald Trump’s administration that the state of Florida is “off the table” for new offshore oil drilling, a declaration that brought both relief and protests of election-year politics.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at the airport in Tallahassee Tuesday afternoon. Both men emerged 20 minutes later to face waiting reporters, who had an hour’s notice of the meeting.

    “As a result of our interest in making sure that there’s no drilling here, Florida will be taken off the table,” Scott said.

    Zinke said the decision was a culmination of multiple meetings between Scott and Trump administration officials.

    “Florida is obviously unique,” Zinke said. “For Floridians, we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, and clearly the governor has expressed that it’s important.”

    High-risk underground fuel tanks in Florida await cleanup as state spends millions on easy fixes

    Scattered across Florida are 19,000 underground petroleum storage tanks that are no longer in use and may be leaking into the aquifer, the state’s drinking water supply.

    State records show that 738 of them are in Pinellas County, 792 in Hillsborough, 101 in Pasco and 61 in Hernando.

    Most people who live near them don’t even know they are there, or that they might be polluting their water. State law doesn’t require anyone to warn them.

    The state Department of Environmental Protection, in charge of cleaning up the mess, was originally supposed to work on the highest-priority sites first, those posing the greatest threat to human health.

    But at the direction of lawmakers and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, that’s no longer the case.

    Learn about Florida history, environment at Highlands Hammock SP

    Highlands Hammock State Park presents Florida Series Four!, a Tuesday evening lecture series that is free and open to the public in the park's Recreation Hall. Each event will be preceded by“Meet and Greet” informal book sales and signings at 6 pm, with the main program beginning at 7 pm. The programs examine keystones in Florida history and environmental issues.

    GARY MORMINO, Professor of History Emeritus, USF, St. Petersburg

    On the eve of Pearl Harbor, Florida was the smallest state in the South. Today, Florida is a Sunbelt megastate. World War II is the lynchpin. The war galvanized Floridians, resulting in the influx of two million servicemen. WWII also ignited a modern civil rights movement, new roles for women, and the dawn of the Florida Dream. Explore Florida’s role in the war with Dr. Gary Mormino as he examines the great social, cultural, and economic forces that transformed Florida into the “Sunshine State,” now the third most populous in the country.

    CYNTHIA BARNETT, Florida Author & Journalist

    Take an engaging natural and cultural tour of RAIN, from its key roles in civilization, religion, and art to the peculiar history of the world’s first raincoat to the rain obsessions of our “Founding Forecaster,” Thomas Jefferson. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Barnett will focus on hurricanes and examine the increasingly violent storm events of the past two decades. Discover how many communities are coming to live differently with rain and forming a new water ethic in America. Rain is a shared experience which connects all of us – as profound as prayer and art, as practical as economics, as genuine as an exchange between strangers on a stormy day.

    DAVID SCHMIDT, Curator, Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, Highlands Hammock State Park

    The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was one of FDR’s most controversial programs to put people to work during the Great Depression. The buildings, bridges, post offices and other projects that were completed during the 1930s and 40s constitute a significant infrastructure now largely forgotten. Even less well known are the New Deal initiatives that included art, photography, film, literature, music and theater. Roosevelt scholar David Schmidt looks closely at WPA works in Florida including the 1942 mural of saber-toothed cats by the great American wildlife artist Charles R. Knight that was rescued from the Sebring Post Office and now hangs in the Sebring Public Library.

    STEVEN NOLL, Professor of History, University of Florida, Gainesville

    Florida's history as a territory and a state can be told through the changing methods of transportation designed to move people and goods both to Florida and within Florida. Examining the changing transportation networks in the state, Dr. Steve Noll will trace how Florida changed from a backwoods frontier to one of the most important states in the union. Tying transportation history to social history, travel on a journey that moves from the Bellamy Road of the 1820s to the modern transportation issues currently facing the Sunshine State.

    More information:
    Park entry fees are waived after 6 pm.
    Highlands Hammock State Park is located at 5931 Hammock Road, Sebring FL 33872

    Program presented by the Division of Recreation and Parks Department of Environmental Protection
    Programs are sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council with funds from the Florida Department State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, Highlands Hammock State Park, and the Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park, Inc. For more information, call 863-386-6094 or visit www.floridastateparks.org/park/Highlands-Hammock.

    Red tide, boat strikes cause of most manatee deaths in 2017

    A prolonged red tide season that bled over from 2016 played a large role in deaths of the Florida manatee this year.

    Red tide’s presence was visible — visually and nasally — from September 2016 through February in Manatee County, with other areas along Southwest Florida also being exposed.

    Also known as the accumulation of the phytoplankton Karenia brevis, red tide used to be a one-off reason for manatee mortality, said Katie Tripp, Save the Manatee’s director of science and conservation.

    In 2016, a total of 520 manatees were reported dead statewide, with various causes such as boat strikes, cold stress syndrome or natural. This year, preliminary counts through Dec. 15 put the count at 513. Many of them occurred in Brevard or Lee counties, as a lot of manatees congregate in those waters. More often than not, the cause of death goes undetermined.