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NOAA to debut storm surge alarm system in time for hurricane season

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Photo: "Coyote" drone, courtesy NOAA

WASHINGTON — Picture the possibility: a weather warning system so accurate it pinpoints the reach and intensity of a storm surge from an impending hurricane days before the flooding hits.

After years of planning and testing, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is rolling out such a system for the 2016 hurricane season that officially begins Wednesday for the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. A more detailed version is expected to come online next year that could predict storm surges even before a system forms.

The technology is one of two milestone projects being deployed on a wide scale this year. Government forecasters hope it not only will save lives, but give the public more confidence that an evacuation order should be taken seriously.

"The goal is to increase the chances that when people are instructed by their emergency managers to evacuate, they go," Richard Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, told a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee Wednesday.

The other project is a disposable drone known as the Coyote. It was first dropped into the eye of Hurricane Edouard off the Atlantic coast in 2014, providing scientists an unprecedented trove of data on the movement and intensity of the storm.

That experiment was so successful that NOAA plans to use a small fleet of the Raytheon-made aircraft (weighing 13 pounds and sporting a 58-inch wingspan) for the 2016 hurricane season that officially kicks off June 1.

Continued on TCPalm.com »


Florida Water Star℠ rebates available beginning October 1st

$350,000 In Rebates Available

The Florida Water Star℠ (FWS) program is proud to announce that $350,000 in rebates will be available to builders to encourage them to have their homes FWS certified!

The rebate is planned to begin October 1, 2016, and will be available for newly constructed homes that achieve FWS certification in Polk County. The rebate will be available to the first 500 homes that become FWS certified in the amount of $700 per home.

To receive the rebate, the builder must meet the following requirements:

  • The home must be FWS certified by a trained FWS certifier.
  • Home plans include a permanent in-ground irrigation system.
  • Irrigation system water must be purchased from a utility located within Polk County’s political boundaries.

To ensure builders within Polk County have numerous FWS certifiers to choose from to conduct inspections, a FWS certifier training and exam is scheduled on May 24 and 25 at Polk County Utilities in Winter Haven. Current FWS certifiers and accredited professionals interested in a FWS program refresher also are encouraged to attend the training. Click here for more information about the certifier training.

To learn more about FWS, the rebate program or to participate in the training, please email Robin Grantham.

Learn more about the Florida Water Star℠ program »


Haines City’s stormwater fee may change

HAINES CITY — The City Commission has elected to move forward with an ordinance that would change the process for assessing stormwater runoff fees from a flat rate to a sliding scale based on how well a property retains rain water, cutting down on runoff.

The commission voted 5-0 Thursday night [May 19th] to approve the first reading of an ordinance that changes the criteria for assessing the fees from simply acreage to more impervious rates.

Public Works Director Addie Javed said that move also lays the groundwork for the city to give mitigation credits for property owners who make efforts to reduce runoff.

The commission had previously approved setting a maximum increase for stormwater runoff fees at 20 percent, which would take the annual fee to property owners from about $54 to about $65. Also proposed is a $5 administrative fee that would cover some of the hidden costs associated with the fees, like sending out notices and paying Polk County to assess the fee with property taxes.

The city is slated to collect about $500,000 in stormwater revenue in the 2016-17 fiscal year, which can only be used for water and wastewater purposes. That total could increase to about $645,000 if the full increase and administrative fee is approved.

Continued in The Ledger »


Polk commissioners OK aging Poinciana sewer plant’s expansion

Utility: improvements will end odor complaints

BARTOW – County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the expansion of a sewer plant in Poinciana that has been the object of recent odor complaints.

The proposal by the Tohopekaliga Water Authority was to expand the capacity of the plant located near the intersection of Hemlock Avenue and Lake Marion Creek Drive from 1.5 million gallons a day (mgd) to 3 mgd. Long-term plans call for an expansion to 6 mgd.

Brian Wheeler, the authority's executive director, said the plant was built in the late 1970s or early 1980s and needs to be upgraded as well as expanded.

He said many of the current buildings will be demolished and replaced with more modern buildings located in the middle of the site.

Wheeler said the recent odor complaints are the first they've received since taking over the plant in 2008.

He said some of the problems have been traced to a lift station that is part of the sewer collection system, adding the odor problems there have been addressed and the new facilities will be even less prone to cause odor problems.

Continued in The Ledger »


Public blasts DEP over new water toxics limits

The state of Florida wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals that can be discharged into its rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is in the process of revising limits on toxic chemicals that can be released into surface waters, something it’s supposed to do from time to time under the Clean Water Act but hasn’t since the early 1990s.

The agency is updating human-health criteria for 43 dangerous chemical compounds it currently regulates and adopting standards for the first time for another 39.

Of the 82 various toxic substances, the vast majority would have lower standards than recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency. And of the 43 chemicals now regulated, about a couple dozen would see limits increased beyond those currently allowed.

DEP officials say the new standards — based on risk and factors like seafood consumption — would let Floridians safely eat Florida fish and drink local tap water their entire lives. They say the concentration of pollutants in the water wouldn’t pose a significant risk to the average Floridian’s health.

But environmental groups and concerned doctors say the new standards would increase chances people will get sick or develop cancer from the contamination in seafood and water. The proposal drew fire last week during a DEP workshop in Tallahassee, one of only three held around the state.

Continued in the Tallahassee Democrat »


Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act now adopted

The 2016 Florida Legislature adopted SB 552, a long-awaited, comprehensive water bill that tackled issues from Everglades restoration to water supply and created the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act (the Springs Protection Act or the Act), which is now Part VIII of Chapter 373, Florida Statutes. See Ch. 2016-1, § 22 et seq., Laws of Fla.

The Springs Protection Act is aimed at protecting Florida springs fed by the Floridan Aquifer, one of two aquifer systems which underlie the majority of the state (the other is the Biscayne Aquifer, located in an area stretching from Boca Raton to the Florida Keys) and one of the most productive aquifers in the world. As the legislature recognized, the “[w]ater quality of springs is an indicator of local conditions of the Floridan Aquifer,” and these springs are threatened by polluted runoff, discharges resulting from inadequate wastewater and stormwater management practices, and reduced water levels of the Floridan Aquifer from withdrawals. The Act focuses on the water quantity and quality of Florida’s springs.

The Springs Protection Act builds on existing law, including the Florida Water Resources Act and the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act, and requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to adopt:

  • recovery and prevention strategies to ensure that water levels at Florida’s springs do not fall below established Minimum Levels; and
  • basin management action plans (BMAPs) to ensure that pollutant levels in Florida’s springs are below established Total Maximum Daily Loads.

Continued on jdsupra.com »


Study: Efficient fixtures have cut U.S. indoor water use 22% since 1999

Indoor household water use in the United States decreased 22 percent between 1999 and 2016, according to the most rigorous analysis to date of how water is used in U.S. homes.

Even more encouraging for conservationists is that indoor water use could drop another 35 percent or more if all homes installed the most water-efficient fixtures and appliances on the market.

The decline in water use — from 670 liters (177 gallons) per household per day to 522 liters (138 gallons) — is not due to a green wave of environmentalism breaking over the suburbs. U.S. households accomplished the feat without a significant change in behavior, according to William DeOreo, lead author of the study. Household size was roughly equal in the two studies (2.7 people in 1999 versus 2.6 today). Minutes per shower remained constant. Toilet flushes did not budge. Neither did faucet use. The reason households are using less water: better equipment.

“It’s almost all attributable to fixtures,” DeOreo told Circle of Blue, talking about toilets, faucets, clothes washers, dishwashers, and other appliances. “It’s not like people’s habits changed. Better technology really drove the reduction. And there’s room for more improvement if we adopt the best technology out there today.”

The study’s findings are consistent with broader water use patterns in the United States. Water withdrawals peaked in 1980, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. In addition, many cities, while confronting limits to water supply, are seeing persistent downward trends in consumption. Fort Worth, Texas, for instance, cut residential water use by 18 percent between 2006 and 2013. And Seattle uses about 30 percent less water today than in the late 1980s.

Continued on the website Circle of Blue »


Lake Wales hopes waterline replacements will clear up taps

LAKE WALES — At least some city residents who have had issues with water sediment in their homes might see the situation improve following action by the city commission last week.

Lake Wales will spend $52,339 for engineering services related to replacing aged galvanized steel waterlines in three areas, including Tillman Avenue, Johnson Avenue and Tower View Road, Townsend and Steedly avenues and Delmar, Grove and Emerald avenues.

The city has earmarked $200,000 in the current year capital improvements budget for upgrading waterlines.

Utilities Director Sarah Kirkland noted that galvanized steel pipe has an average lifespan of 40 to 50 years, and that eventually “flakes of corroded steel peel off the interior surface of the pipe and get carried to the back side of facets in the homes, where they gradually accumulate and restrict the water flow.”

Continued in The Lake Wales News »


Paradise lost, found in Southwest Florida seagrass

By Mark Alderson, Lisa Beever and Holly Greening, Guest Columnists for the Herald-Tribune

In the early 1900s, bay waters from Tampa to Charlotte Harbor teemed with sea life. Old-timers wistfully recall collecting scallops, clams and oysters by the bucketful. Snook, spotted sea trout and red drum were plentiful.

That rich natural abundance was nurtured, in part, by vast seagrass meadows, one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Seagrasses provide food and shelter for 70 percent of our local fishery species. They trap sediments, stabilize bay bottoms and store carbon. Because they need sunlight for photosynthesis, seagrasses require clear water to survive and grow.

Over the decades, intense residential and commercial development took a toll on water quality and seagrasses in Southwest Florida. Marshes were drained. Dredging removed seagrass habitat, and associated suspended sediments smothered neighboring seagrass beds.

Canals and drainage pipes accelerated the rush of stormwater from impervious roads and buildings to the bay, carrying with it nitrogen from fertilizers and pet waste. Mangrove fringe and coastal marsh, which previously filtered runoff, were replaced with seawalls. Wastewater discharges and leaky septic fields flushed bacteria and nitrogen into waterways.

Nitrogen pollution fueled algal blooms, which clouded the water. Deprived of sunlight, seagrasses died; and, as algae died and decayed, they robbed waters of life-sustaining oxygen, killing fish and other sea life.

In less than a century, once vast seagrass meadows and their abundant sea life had literally become a shadow of their former glory. Threats to public health, quality of life and the tourism-based economy, together with a new environmental understanding and ethic, motivated Southwest Florida communities to restore their bays.

In the 1990s, three national estuary programs (NEPs) were created on Florida’s Gulf Coast to protect and restore our three Estuaries of National Significance: Sarasota Bay (established 1989), Tampa Bay (established 1991) and Charlotte Harbor (established 1995). No other coastline in the nation has three NEPs providing contiguous management leadership for its protection and restoration.

Partnerships are the key to NEP success, including local, state and federal agencies, local policy, citizen and technical advisers, nonprofit organizations, business partners and thousands of volunteers.

Together, we collaborate to reduce nutrient pollution by improving municipal wastewater and stormwater practices, promoting habitat conservation and restoration, and developing educational outreach to homeowners and businesses. Forward thinking city and county leaders are instrumental to providing the financing and political will to translate best-science and planning into successful action.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »


County to spend $600,000 to repair culverts

Polk Commissioners last week got a quick lesson in culverts — how they work and how they don’t.

The board learned that there are some six of the bridge-like structures that are in immediate need of replacement or repair, and the clean-up measures will cost about $600,000.

A slide presentation illustrated how huge pipes laid underneath roads should work to provide drainage and were also shown how older structures can crumble, plug drainage systems and lead to localized flooding.

According to Transportation Department Director Jay Jarvis, the money to pay to fix six culverts that have failed will be transferred from an existing road striping budget, so no additional funds will be required.

The areas that are in immediate need were Alturas Babson Park Road; Crystal Lake Road where a crumbling structure will be replaced with new pipe; Keller Road at Bowlegs Creek, also failing will need new piping; the Old Eagle Lake/Winter Haven Road will require new drainage structures or pipes; County Line Road where standing water issues will be addressed and Eloise Loop Road where failing drainage systems have resulted in localized flooding.

Jarvis did not say when the work in the six locations would be undertaken or whether the work would be done by contractors or with county staff.

“Thanks for teaching us all about culverts,” said Commissioner Melony Bell at April 19 commission meeting. “I learned a lot about what they are and what they do when they work and when they don’t.”

The board agreed unanimously to the money transfer so the work can be undertaken as soon as possible.

Click here to view original article »

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