Current News Items (within the last 30 days)
USGS study: Nesting Gulf sea turtles feed in waters filled with threats
DAVIE — Nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feed among areas that were oiled by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where human activities occur, several of which are known to pose threats to sea turtles, a new U.S Geological study showed.
The feeding areas for 10 turtles overlapped with an area that experienced surface oiling during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These sites, and others, also overlapped with areas trawled by commercial fishing operations and used for oil and gas extraction.
The study, which is the largest to date on Northern Gulf loggerheads, examined 59 nesting females, which scientists believe could be 15 percent of the breeding females in the Northern Gulf of Mexico—a small and declining subpopulation of loggerheads that is federally classified as threatened.
“With such a large sample of the nesting females, we’re finally getting the big picture of when, where and how females that nest in the northern Gulf of Mexico rely on off-shore waters to survive. This information is critical for halting and reversing their declines,” said USGS research ecologist Kristen Hart, the lead author of the study.
The study began in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a means to better understand how sea turtles used habitat in the Northern Gulf of Mexico by analyzing the movements of turtles tagged between 2010 and 2013.
All of the turtles tracked in the study remained in the Gulf of Mexico to feed, and a third remained in the northern part of the Gulf. This differs from reports in other parts of the world, where some loggerheads have been shown to migrate across ocean basins after nesting.
Continued on the USGS website...
FWC to host public meeting on hydrilla treatment
Managing invasive plants in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes is the topic of a July 31 public meeting to be hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The meeting is in Kissimmee from 6-8 p.m. in the County Commission Champers on the fourth floor of the Osceola County Administration Building, 1 Courthouse Square. A live webcast will be available through the County’s website.
The goal of this meeting is to provide updates, answer questions and receive public input on hydrilla treatments conducted during the past year on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The discussion will include current hydrilla management, snail kite nesting and submerged vegetation mapping. Public input from the wide variety of user groups on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, which includes lakes Kissimmee, Hatchineha, Cypress, Jackson and Tohopekaliga, is critical to create a well-balanced approach to managing hydrilla and other invasive aquatic plants.
For information and questions about the meeting, contact Ed Harris, FWC invasive plant management regional biologist, at 321-246-0573.
UF researchers: “Little janitor” merits attention in Florida springs' health debate
GAINESVILLE – A small, slow moving resident who enjoys a vegetative diet and keeps things tidy may be the overlooked player in public debates over Florida’s ailing freshwater springs, University of Florida researchers say.
North Florida has the world’s highest concentration of large freshwater springs. For decades, crystal-clear water bubbling from the ground has driven tourism in the form of scuba divers, canoeists, boaters and swimmers, but today, many of those springs don’t bubble like they used to; green scum often obliterates the view.
Although the blame for algae-choked springs is often pinned on excess nitrate, the scientists say the absence of algae-eating native freshwater snails known as Elimia — which UF researcher Dina Liebowitz calls the “little janitor of the springs” — may be a key factor.
Nitrate, which has gotten the lion’s share of attention in springs-health discussions, enters the aquifer and emerges at the springs from municipal sewage treatment and disposal, agricultural and residential fertilizer use, livestock farms and residential septic systems.
Matthew Cohen, a UF associate professor and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member who specializes in ecohydrology, says while controlling nitrate is a worthy goal, doing that alone “will not be enough to restore springs ecology.”
Continued on news.ufl.edu...
EPA encourages homeowners to care for their septic systems
WASHINGTON - Proper septic system care and maintenance is vital to protecting public health and preserving valuable water resources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging homeowners to take action to ensure their septic systems are functioning properly. Nearly one quarter of all American households-more than 26 million homes-depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater.
Failure to maintain and service a home's septic system can lead to system back-ups and overflows, which can result in costly repairs, polluted local waterways and risks to public health and the environment.
"By taking a few small, simple steps to care for their home's septic system, homeowners can help protect the health of their community and their local waterways, while preventing potentially costly repairs to their septic system that can occur if the system is not properly maintained," said EPA acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner.
Homeowners can do their part by following these SepticSmart tips:
Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have their tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years.
Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain, which can clog a system's pipes and drainfield.
Ask guests to put only things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.
Be water efficient and spread out water use. Consider fixing plumbing leaks and installing faucet aerators and water-efficient products that bear the EPA WaterSense label, and spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Too much water at once can overload a system if it hasn't been pumped recently.
- Remind guests not to park or drive on a system's drainfield, where the vehicle's weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.
EPA's SepticSmart program encourages proper septic system care and maintenance all year long, helping to educate homeowners about the need for periodic septic system maintenance and proper daily system use. In addition to helping educate homeowners, SepticSmart also serves as an online resource for industry practitioners, local governments, and community organizations, providing access to tools to help educate their clients and residents.
More information on how to find WaterSense-labeled products in your area: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/products/index.html
More information on how to find WaterSense-labeled products in your area
Results of 2014 harmful algal bloom state survey released
Toxic algae outbreaks, or Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are a widespread problem across the U.S., but few states have programs dedicated to monitoring or reporting on these outbreaks. That’s the top finding in a 50-state survey conducted in spring 2014 by Resource Media and the National Wildlife Federation.
Survey created by: Resource Media & The National Wildlife Federation"
Assessing the Seriousness of HABs
• 71% of responding states reported that HABs are either a “somewhat serious” or a “very serious” problem
• No responding states reported that HABs are “not an issue”
• More than half (20) of responding states reported that “HABs occur every year in many lakes and/or other fresh water bodies in my state”
• 49% (19) of states reported actively monitoring some public access lakes/water bodies that have experienced HABs in the past
• One state (Nebraska) actively monitors all public access lakes/water bodies for HABs
• 56% (22) of responding states reported relying, at least in part, on local municipalities and members of the public to report HABs to 31% (12) of responding states reported relying solely on local municipalities and members of the public to report HABs
• 38% (15) of responding states reported not tracking any of the impacts of HABs
• Of states that do track HAB impacts, the most commonly reported impact to be tracked/studied was animal mortalities (54%)
• Two states (Oklahoma and Virginia) reported tracking or studying Emergency Room admissions
• Three states (Hawaii, Kansas and Oklahoma) reported tracking or studying tourism statistics in relation to HABs
• 77% (30) of responding states reported that they do not have a HAB hotline for the public to report HABs.
• This includes 11 of the 12 states that reported relying solely on local municipalities and members of the public to report HABs
• 73% (27) of responding states reported that they “provide information to those who request it”
• 4 states (Alabama, Alaska, New Mexico and Utah) reported that they “provide information to those who request it”, but do not disseminate information to the public in any other way
• The following methods of communication with the public received between 46% and 49% popositive responses:
• My state alerts the local media about HABs and/or health advisories with a press release or press advisory
• My state provides information about the location and/or severity on a publicly available website
• My state posts signs at HAB impacted beaches/lakes/communities to educate local residents and visitors
• My state provides general education to the public about what to do if they suspect a HAB
• Two states (Kansas and New York) reported using Facebook and/or Twitter to announce information about HABs, health advisories or beach closures
• More than half (20) of the responding states reported tracking historic data on HABs and all but two of those states reported providing public access to that data
• 12 states reported running a HAB program (i.e. with dedicated staff, a budget, a planning process).
• 3 of those states (New York, Virginia and Washington) reported that their HAB programs have dedicated funding
• 47% (18) of responding states reported “actively addressing known causes of HABs”
• 4 states (Alaska, Maine, Nevada and New Mexico) reported taking no action on HABs, past,
present or future
More Information On The 2014 Harmful Algal Bloom State Survey...
USF & UF approved for grants to support climate resilience and “green infrastructure”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the 2014 USDA Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grant recipients. The grants provide funding that will help enhance urban forest stewardship, support new employment opportunities, and help build resilience in the face of a changing climate. Close to 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas and depends on the essential ecological, economic, and social benefits provided by urban trees and forests. Climate and extreme weather events pose threats to urban trees and forests requiring increased investment in management, restoration and stewardship.
The grant proposals were recommended by the Secretary’s National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council and will address urban forest resiliency to extreme weather events and the long-term impacts of climate change; strategies for bolstering green jobs; and opportunities to use green infrastructure to manage and mitigate stormwater and improve water quality.
The University of South Florida was approved for their project, "From Gray to Green: Tools for Transitioning to Vegetation-Based Stormwater Management Program"
Description of Program Purpose: Many communities lack systematic strategies to transition from the existing conventional (gray) drainage systems to green infrastructure. This project will provide natural resource managers, planners, and engineers with decision-support tools to aid the strategic planning process for transitioning to green infrastructure systems that emphasize trees and urban forests.
Federal Grant Amount: $149,722
The University of Florida was approved for their project, "Mobile Tree Failure Prediction for Storm Preparation and Response Program".
Description of Program Purpose: This proposed modeling system will assist urban forest managers in predicting tree failure during storms by developing a data collection model and a mobile Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping application to quantify tree risk in communities. The results and a best management practices manual will be made available to all researchers and professionals through the International Tree Failure Database, providing the standardized data needed to enhance our understanding of wind-related tree failure.
Federal Grant Amount: $281,648
US Forest Service grant announcement
Recycling rates In Florida continue to climb
This year's new 2013 recycling data released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows Florida's official recycling rate is now 49 percent, up one percent from last year. This represents a substantial increase in the amount of solid waste recycled -- from 9.7 million tons in 2012 to 11.8 million tons in 2013.|
“As we get closer to the 2020 deadline for the 75-percent recycling goal, we need all Florida residents to step up recycling efforts,” said Division of Waste Management Director Jorge Caspary. “While we have made modest improvements again this year, it is still critical for the commercial sector to increase its recycling efforts before the goal can be achieved.”
Lets keep up the great work Florida and achieve the 75% recycling goal by 2020!
Top 10 Counties for Total Recycling Rates:
- Hillsborough, 73%
- Lee, 70%
- Hendry, 68%
- Pasco, 67%
- Pinellas, 63%
- Collier, 60%
- Sarasota, 58%
- Martin, Palm Beach, 56% (tie)
- Monroe, 55%
Top 10 Counties for Traditional Recycling Rates:
- Sarasota, 58%
- Alachua, Martin, Collier, 54% (three-way tie)
- Brevard, 52%
- Manatee, 48%
- Orange, 47%
- Lee, 46%
- Duval, Leon, 45%(tie)
Read The Full News Release Here
Average “dead zone” predicted for Gulf of Mexico
Scientists are expecting an average, but still large, hypoxic or "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico this year. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-supported modeling is forecasting this year's Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone to cover an area ranging from about 4,633 to 5,708 square miles (12,000 to 14,785 square kilometers) or about the size of the state of Connecticut.
The Gulf of Mexico prediction is based on models developed by NOAA -sponsored modeling teams and individual researchers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University ,Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences/College of William and Mary, Texas A&M University, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and relies on nutrient loading estimates from the USGS. The models also account for the influence of variable weather and oceanographic conditions, and predict that these can affect the dead zone area by as much as 38 percent.
The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico affects nationally important commercial and recreational fisheries and threatens the region's economy. A second NOAA-funded forecast, for the Chesapeake Bay, predicts a slightly larger than average dead zone in the nation's largest estuary.
More Information on the USGS Website...
To better combat lionfish invasion, FWC has new rules
Imported lionfish not welcome in Florida
Florida is known as a tourist-friendly state, but starting Aug. 1, one visitor will no longer be welcome: the invasive lionfish.
Introduced into Florida waters in the late 1980s, lionfish populations have boomed in recent years, negatively impacting native wildlife and habitat.
Several management changes go into effect Aug. 1 that will help the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) combat the growing problem by making it easier for lionfish hunters to remove the spiny predators and limiting further introduction of the species into the waters.
- Prohibiting the importation of live lionfish;
- Allowing lionfish to be removed via spearfishing when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time (currently, you cannot spear any fish when using a rebreather); and
- Allowing participants of approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not currently allowed (such as certain state parks or refuges). This will be done through a permitting system.
See or catch a lionfish? Report a sighting by downloading the new Report Florida Lionfish app on a smart device or by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Recreational Regulations” (under “Saltwater”) and then “Lionfish.”
Learn more about lionfish
Report: Less nitrogen ending up in Polk lakes
More of Polk's lakes could be on their way to becoming clearer and less green.
By Tom Palmer
BARTOW – By October, a county committee studying solutions to stormwater pollution problems will be ready to take a look at proposals to fix the first dozen lakes.
In the meantime, the first-ever street-sweeping program in unincorporated Polk County has removed hundreds of pounds on nitrogen and phosphorous from roadsides before it ends up in local lakes, county officials report.
Those updates were delivered to the county's Stormwater Technical Advisory Committee last week as the five-member panel reviews proposals and studies submitted by county staff and consultants to comply with state and federal mandates to reduce lake pollution.
"I'm pleased where we're headed,'' said Chairman Dave Carter, a Winter Haven engineer.
Continued in The Ledger...
Poll: 7 out of 10 Florida voters concerned about climate change, back EPA action plan
By Marc Caputo
Nearly eight in 10 likely Florida voters want limits on carbon pollution from power plants and as many as 71 percent say they’re concerned about climate change, according to a new poll conducted for an environmental group during the hotly contested governor’s race.
“The takeaway from this poll is simple: People think carbon pollution is a problem, and they think our political leaders should take action and fight pollution,” said Susan Glickman, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which sponsored the 1,005-likely voter poll by SurveyUSA.
Continued in the Miami Herald...
Cleanup at Lake Wire this Friday, July 25th
The Month of July is Lakes Appreciation Month! The North American Lakes Management Society (NALMS) has designated July as Lakes Appreciation Month to recognize the importance of lakes for drinking water, energy production, food production, and for aesthetic and recreational value.
The City of Lakeland’s Lakes & Stormwater division is asking citizens to participate in a lake cleanup in July as part of Lakes Appreciation Month. The final cleanup will be held from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: July 25 at Lake Wire, 20 Lake Wire Drive, Lakeland. Please contact Stephanie Witherspoon for more information.
The City's Adopt-A-Lake program involves a group "adopting" a specific lake, and commiting to at least four cleanup events a year. After the first year, an Adopt-A-Lake recognition sign of the city will supply and install a sign of recognition in honor of the volunteer or group adopting the lake.
• Adopt-A-Lake Brochure
• Adopt-A-Lake Application Packet
City of Lakeland Adopt-A-Lake web page
"Don’t Feed The Monster!" video uses humor to educate about proper fertilizer use
The City of Sanibel has posted an educational video titled, “Don’t Feed the Monster!” on the City's website. The video was produced by the Fertilize Smart Education Consortium which includes the City of Sanibel, City of Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Lee County, City of Fort Myers, City of Cape Coral, The Islands of Sanibel and Captiva Chamber of Commerce, and the South Florida Water Management District.
The video portrays a fertilizer algae monster resulting from improper amounts of fertilizer that is carried by run-off and redirected to our shores, bays, rivers, and lakes.
According to the city's website, "It is vital that we fertilize properly to keep our sanctuary island and pristine waters clean. The actions we take in our homes and yards affects our water quality and wildlife resources."
Public workshop on "water reservations" in Kissimmee River Basin July 30th
Maintaining the availability of water is a key component of environmental restoration and management affecting the Upper Chain of Lakes and the Kissimmee River and floodplain. Together, these remarkable Central Florida water bodies shelter 52 species of fish, 98 species of wetland-dependent and wading birds, 24 species of reptiles and amphibians and mammals including the marsh rabbit, river otter and round-tailed muskrat. Ultimately, all of these species are dependent on water and the success of other wildlife in their shared habitat.
To assure water for the protection of fish and wildlife within the Upper Chain of Lakes and restored Kissimmee River and floodplain, the South Florida Water Management District is developing rules to reserve water for those purposes. The District, State of Florida and the United States government have provided substantial support for restoration of these ecosystems. To date, Florida has invested $400 million in headwaters projects encompassing lakes, the river and its floodplain. This accounts for 25,000 acres of wetland habitat critical to the protection of fish and wildlife, including endangered or threatened species. When implemented, the reservation will guarantee that the water needed to keep these ecosystems thriving will not be allocated for consumptive use.
When: July 30, 2014, 10 a.m. to noon
Osceola County Commission Chamber
Fourth Floor (Room 4100), Administration Building
1 Courthouse Square
Kissimmee, FL 34741
Reservation Rule Development Activities 2008-2009:
Source: South Florida Water Management District
More information about the Kissimmee River Basin
Gulf Stream gold: Mining green energy from Atlantic currents
The Gulf Stream meanders clockwise from the Gulf of Mexico, past the mid-Atlantic coast toward Europe. It is one of the most powerful currents in the world, and it is full of life. Landbound humanity is hoping to capitalize on the Gulf Stream’s fast-flowing waters, eyeing them as a potential source of endless power and a possible solution to Florida’s energy needs. A pilot project to test a variety of electricity-generating turbines right in the middle of the Gulf Stream has been given the go-ahead in the form of a five-year lease to Florida Atlantic University (FAU). The lease covers 1,000 acres right in the flow of the current.
The environmental upside is obvious. It is believed the Gulf Stream has the potential energy — from a clean and renewable source — to supply Florida with 35 percent of its electrical needs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
The full article is at America.Aljazerra.com
Written by: Patricia Sagastume
Connect with her on twitter: @PatSagastume
Imagery provided by: FAU / SNMREC
Lakeland’s lake managers stress vitality of clean waters
By Tom Palmer
LAKELAND | If you spend any time on or around Polk County's lakes, it's hard to miss the flotilla of cups, bottles, cans and other debris that bobs among the cattails and pickerelweed.
But as volunteers head to Polk's waterways this month to participate in a nationwide litter cleanup campaign called Lakes Appreciation Month, some may wonder whether the effort is justified or useful.
Local lake managers think so.
"Our downtown lakes need help,'' said Curtis Porterfield, Lakeland's lakes and stormwater manager, explaining anything tossed on the street in downtown Lakeland is likely to end up in Lake Wire, Lake Morton or Lake Mirror.
"In Lakeland, it's the most visible sign of pollution,'' he said.
Litter is certainly an aesthetic issue, but it can also affect the safety of wildlife and people, said Jeff Spence, Polk's director of parks and natural resources.
Read the full article in The Ledger...
Learn how to protect drinking water from HABS at July 16th webinar
"How to Protect Your Drinking Water From Harmful Algal Blooms"
July 16, 2014, 1 p.m.–3 p.m. EDT
On July 16, 2014, EPA's Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds will host a webcast focused on the impact of algal toxins to drinking water, entitled "How To Protect Your Drinking Water From Harmful Algal Blooms." Karen Sklenar from The Cadmus Group and Tom Conry from Waco Water Utilities Services will continue the series with a discussion of the impact HABs can have on drinking water sources, the extent to which treatment facilities can remove toxins, and ultimately how people can help to reduce the environmental, health, and economic problem in the future.
This webcast series is a part of a broader outreach effort that aims to focus public attention on HABs, which are associated with nutrient pollution, and can sicken people and pets, devastate aquatic ecosystems, and be a detriment to the economy.
Click here to register for the webinar...