Current News Items (within the last 30 days)
Comment period on CFWI planning documents extended to Aug. 17
The public comment period on the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) draft 2035 Water Resources Protection and Water Supply Strategies Plan (Solutions Plan) and minor changes to the draft 2015 Regional Water Supply Plan has been extended to Aug. 17, 2015. The time extension will provide additional opportunity for the public to review and comment on the documents. The two draft documents will set a path forward for meeting water supply needs in central Florida for the next 20 years.
CFWI is a collaborative effort among the St. Johns, South Florida and Southwest Florida water management districts, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, regional public water supply utilities and other stakeholders to develop a unified process to address central Florida's current and long-term water supply needs. The CFWI planning area includes Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and southern Lake counties.
When finalized, the Solutions Plan will provide detailed information about water conservation; specific water supply project options and partnerships with water users; a financial assessment of the project options; and management and implementation strategies.
The draft plans are available at cfwiwater.com. Comments can be provided online or by mail and email. Details are available on the website. The comment period will close on Aug. 17, 2015.
Click here to review the plan and submit comments online
District Approves Proposed Millage Rate
The Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) adopted a proposed FY2015-16 millage rate of 0.3488 mill, 4.6 percent lower than the current fiscal year. For the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption, the District tax would be $34.88 a year, or about $2.91 per month. The fiscal year runs from Oct. 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2016. The total FY2015-16 proposed budget for the District is $183.4 million.
The budget reflects the District’s commitment to protect Florida’s water resources and to improve Florida’s economic vitality. All programs and projects advance the core mission of the District and are designed to provide the highest quality service to residents within the District.
The proposed budget includes more than $109 million for Cooperative Funding Initiatives and District projects. The District funds are leveraged with its partners’ resulting in a total investment of more than $150 million for water resource management projects.
The District will hold a tentative budget hearing on Sept.15 at 5:01 p.m. at the Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301.The Governing Board will vote on the final budget on Sept. 29 at 5:01 p.m., at the Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301.
Click here to view original source
Florida leads nation in property at risk from climate change
Florida has more private property at risk from flooding linked to climate change than any other state, an amount that could double in the next four decades, according to a new report by the Risky Business Project.
By 2030, $69 billion in coastal property in Florida could flood at high tide that is not at risk today, the report found. That amount is projected to climb to $152 billion by 2050.
While projections for rising seas are not new, for the first time researchers tried to quantify the economic damage wrought by climate change by better understanding the risks to business and a rebounding economy. Growth in manufacturing and energy production have created a mini boom in the Southeast and Texas, the report said. But climate change threatens to undo that progress and cause widespread damage to the region’s economic pillars: manufacturing, agriculture and energy.
For Florida, the blows are significant and not only for property. Higher temperatures and rising seas could slow labor productivity, stress the energy industry and dry up cash pumped into the state by tourists.
“The sea-rise numbers are out there. The heat numbers are out there. What this study has done for the first time is really look at this from a business perspective,” former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who co-chaired the project, said in an interview with the Miami Herald.
Continued in The Miami Herald »
USF Researchers find reasons behind increases in urban flooding
Scientists at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science investigating the increasing risk of ‘compound flooding’ for major U.S. cities have found that flooding risk is greatest for cities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts when strong storm surge and high rainfall amounts occur together. While rising sea levels are the main driver for increasing flood risk, storm surges caused by weather patterns that favor high precipitation exacerbates flood potential.
The paper describing their research on the causes of compound flooding in urban areas of the U.S will appear in Nature Climate Change (Vol. 5, August, 2015) and is now available online.
“Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population resides in coastal counties,” said study lead author Thomas Wahl of the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and the University of Siegen in Germany. “Flooding can have devastating impacts for these low-lying, densely populated and heavily developed regions and have wide-ranging social, economic and environmental consequences.”
Their analysis focused on the joint occurrence of the two distinct flooding sources in coastal regions – storm surge and high precipitation – that can result in direct run-off (pluvial) and increased river discharge (fluvial).
The research team also identified three key compound flooding mechanisms: elevated water levels in estuarine regions; storm surge flooding that worsens with heavy rainfall and; moderate storm surge that blocks or slows down drainage.
They concluded that “the complex interplay between storm surge and precipitation can lead to, or exacerbate, the impacts of flooding in coastal zones through multiple mechanisms.”
Continued on Florida Water Daily
Click here to read the original study
Gardens With a Purpose: Winter Haven's Rain Gardens Help Lake Water Quality
Rain gardens are spreading like scattered showers around the heart of Winter Haven.
And the city will soon have $400,000 to create more of them, with the funds coming mostly from grants. There are now 44 city-built rain gardens in the core of the downtown, with plans to double that in the next few years.
For two of the city supervisors responsible for managing flooding and controlling lake water quality and levels, this question answers itself:
Which is better: Rain that washes across streets and parking lots and makes its way — with assorted crud, harmful nutrients and debris — into storm drains and then into lakes, or, rain that simply soaks into the ground and refreshes the Floridan aquifer?
And that's where Winter Haven's aggressive installation of rain gardens comes in.
"We're changing 25 years of what wasn't working out the way we hoped," said Mike Britt, director of Winter Haven's Natural Resources Division.
Rain gardens are intended to catch water running off buildings; or, in some cases, runoff is directed into the gardens.
The area is dug about 9 to 12 inches down to retain excess water, and the soil should be sandy for fast drainage. Plants in the garden should be able to handle Florida's sun, summer rains and dry winters.
Two plants that do exceedingly well are muhley grass and swamp sunflower, according to M. J. Carnevale, a natural resources program manager for Winter Haven.
Continued on Newschief.com »
New Fishing Exhibit Opening at the History Center
The Polk County History Center’s new fishing exhibit is all about the bass, ‘bout the bass – no treble (hooks). The opening of Lores and Lures: Polk County’s Fishing History is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m., Aug. 13.
The new exhibit showcases the rich history of fishing in Polk and features artifacts on permanent loan by Mr. and Mrs. W.H. “Bill” Stuart, Jr. of Bartow. Over the years, Stuart has amassed an extensive collection of rare and unique fishing lures, antique rods, reels, tackle and early outboard motors.
Central Florida consistently ranks as one of the top freshwater fishing destinations in the world because of its abundant sunshine and pleasant climate. With more than 550 lakes, rivers and manmade reservoirs, Polk’s environment is rife with fishing lore. A Florida largemouth bass, caught in a Polk lake in 1986, currently holds the state record for weight at 17.27 pounds, as certified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A replica of the world record for the largest bass is represented in the exhibit, caught by George W. Perry in Georgia’s Lake Montgomery in 1932, weighing in at 22 pounds, 4 ounces.
The History Center also is incorporating the newly expanded fishing exhibit into a permanent Polk tourism exhibit that will be featured at the opening ceremony.
About the Polk County History Center: The History Center is located at 100 E. Main St. in Bartow and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visit www.polkhistorycenter.org or call (863) 534-4386 for more information on exhibits and programming. All events and programming are free and open to the public.
Polk County Utilities Annual Water Quality Reports Available
Polk County Utilities’ annual Water Quality Reports for all 22 public water systems operated by the county are available online for review or download.
The annual reports detail where your drinking water comes from, what it contains and how it compares to the standards set by state and federal environmental agencies.
The reports can be found online at http://www.polk-county.net/WaterQualityReports, or for a paper copy, call the utilities office at (863) 298-4100.
Polk County Commission Hires Consultant for County Water Pact
County commissioners on Tuesday approved the next step of a plan to form a countywide water cooperative by hiring a consultant to work with local utilities to develop an agreement and an implementation plan.
Hydro Solutions Consulting of Lakeland will be paid $190,522, which will be shared among county and city utilities.
The action is in preparation for a countywide water summit Aug. 10 in Haines City, said Polk County Utilities Director Marjorie Craig.
"That meeting will target elected officials," Craig said, explaining that although she and her staff have been working with city managers and utility directors to keep them informed, there are many officials who took office since this effort began.
The proposal is based on the Central Florida Water Initiative, which has been in the planning stage for the past two years as a way to identify sustainable water supplies for the region for the next 20 years.
Continued in The Ledger »
Water Supply Co-op OK'd on Busy Day for Lakeland Commission
Joining other Polk County municipalities in designing a water supply cooperative was just one of the significant decisions the City Commission made Monday, Commissioner Jim Malless said.
Not a single "nay" vote was recorded despite a heavy agenda during which the commission gave nods to two new types of residences, approved major construction at Lakeland Linder, and hired a consultant to index and analyze downtown parking.
"This is a very important agenda for us as a city today," he said to the four other members present. Commissioners Justin Troller and Phillip Walker were not at the meeting.
During the calm between the failure of the fire fee earlier this month and the weighing of whether to set a higher maximum possible property tax rate at the end of the month, the commission made what Malless called "multigenerational" decisions. The city's current tax rate is $4.6644 per $1,000 of taxable value.
Among them, the commission approved:
Building of 48 "micro-cottages" for residents age 55 and older at 1450 Kennedy Blvd. These 24 duplexes with units of less than 550 square feet each are the first local take on the back-to-basics "tiny house" movement.
Allowing for the transferability of tax incentive benefits for the NOBAY Village developer, Lakeland-based Broadway Real Estate Services. The limited transferability of these benefits will aid the developer in securing secondary financing after the downtown mixed-use project is complete and tenancy stabilized, developer Ron Clark said.
Continued in The Ledger »
Swiftmud backs down from move of headquarters to Tampa from Brooksville
Facing pressure from government and civic leaders in Hernando County, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, also known as Swiftmud, has decided to drop its effort to move its district headquarters from Brooksville to Tampa.
In a memo to Swiftmud employees on Friday, executive director Robert Beltran wrote: "Local officials and community leaders made clear the importance they place on the Brooksville campus, its value to the community and the proud heritage associated with the District's history. The District also received letters and resolutions from local governments and members of the community opposing the relocation of the District's headquarters.''
Beltran noted that the rest of the business plan that suggested the headquarters move had been upheld by Swiftmud's governing board, but he said keeping the headquarters in Brooksville would not hinder the agency from its purpose.
"Staff agrees the District can continue to meet its priorities and core mission to manage water and related natural resources to ensure their continued availability while maximizing the benefits to the public,'' he wrote. "Therefore, staff is recommending that the Board take no further action on this issue.''
Friday's announcement does not affect any staffing decisions, neither does it mean that regulatory and other officials moved to Tampa from Brooksville will return.
Continued in the Tampa Bay Times »
Entries sought for CHNEP song contest
Have you written an original composition that captures the beauty or issues of the natural environment of southwest Florida (as defined by the CHNEP)? The CHNEP would like you to submit your songs for use on the CHNEP Citizens Academy and elsewhere. Prizes up to $600 will be awarded.
The rules are simple. Each person may submit up to three entries by Aug. 1, 2015. Complete an online entry form at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/songcontest and submit the digitized audio performance and lyric or sheet music either electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to CHNEP Songs, 326 W. Marion Ave, Punta Gorda FL 33950.
There is no fee to enter. This contest is open to amateur and professional songwriters of any age. You retain ownership of the songs submitted. By entering this contest, you are allowing the CHNEP to use the songs in its materials and at events and allow others to perform your song for CHNEP purposes. You will be asked to perform at select events.
The songs must be original but can be of any genre and must be no more than three minutes long. An entry consists of an
1) Anonymous digitized audio performance
2) A lyric sheet or sheet music and
3) An entry form available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/songcontest
A music video may be submitted but is not required to participate. The song writer can have others perform the song. There is no requirement as to when the song was written or recorded.
The winning entries will be selected by the CHNEP Citizens Advisory Committee in August. Submissions will be judged on lyrics, likeability, creativity, originality, melody and arrangement. Production/recording quality and vocal ability may also considered.
The CHNEP will email all entrants to confirm their entry was received and to announce the entries selected for recognition.
Public Invited to Workshop on Regional Water Supply Plan
The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold a public workshop in Sarasota about the draft 2015 Regional Water Supply Plan (RWSP.) The plan presents the projected water demands across the District and all water use sectors for a 20-year planning period as well as identifies water supply sources and potential water supply project options. The workshop will be accessible via interactive webcast accessed remotely via conference call and online through Cisco WebEx meetings.
Public Information Workshop – Sarasota County
July 21, from 2:30–5:30 p.m.
Sarasota Service Office, 6750 Fruitville Rd., Sarasota
To join the workshop online at 3:30 p.m., use this webcast link. For audio, dial toll free 1-888-670-3525, and enter participant code 9502752119#.
The draft RWSP is available for public review and comment at WaterMatters.org/RWSP through July 31, 2015. Please note that the same information will be presented at each of the Public Information Workshops.
For more details about the public workshops, please call George Schlutermann, P.G. at the District Headquarters at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4212.
CHNEP Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting: August 12, 2015
The CHNEP CitizensAdvisory Committee agenda packet for the next meeting is now available. The meeting will be held Wednesday, August 12, 2015, at the Charlotte Community Foundation Education Center (227 Sullivan St, Punta Gorda).
Please arrive for the meeting by 9:30 to allow time for networking. The meeting will begin at 10:00. If you are unable to review the entire packet prior to the meeting, please read the summary pages. Immediately following the meeting, lunch will be provided (contributions will be requested). We'll review entries for the song contest during lunch then the meeting to further the development of the 2016 calendar will begin once everyone is settled. In the past the committee has met for up to 4 hours to discuss the calendar and review images so the meeting hasn't ended until 4 p.m. More details about the song contest and calendar will be provided at the meeting.
Among other things, the meeting agenda includes:
- CHNEP Visioning Retreat
- 2015 Research Needs Inventory
- Water Quality Functional Assessment Method Project
- CHNEP Oyster Restoration Priority Sites
- CHNEP Program updates
- Review of entries to CHNEP song contest
- Review images submitted for the CHNEP 2016 calendar
The WQFAM for Filter Marshes Plant Identification Guide
, produced as part of the Water Quality Functional Assessment Methods project (agenda item 4), is a useful, beautiful photographic guide to plants. Because of its size, the guide is provided as a separate PDF file. The project report is not yet available.
Lakeland offers free landscape and irrigation audits
The City of Lakeland has received funding to provide no-cost landscape and irrigation audits to Lakeland Water customers who are using at least 20,000 gal/month of metered drinking water and who have an operable in-ground sprinkler system on a timer.
The no-cost audit includes:
- A sprinkler system evaluation with site-specific recommendations
- Landscaping evaluation with planting recommendations
- Help with your irrigation timer
- A water conservation kit
- A free rain sensor if needed
To participate email Daphne McCann
or call (863) 834-6193.
Register now for CHNEP Behavior Change workshop
The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) invites you to a behavior change workshop on Monday, August 31, 2015 at the Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension. We are delighted Salter>Mitchell will lead this workshop. CHNEP is a partnership working to protect the natural environment from Venice to Bonita Springs to Winter Haven. Salter>Mitchell is a marketing and communication agency focused on change — behavior change, culture change and changing public opinion.
Participants will be introduced to the concept and application of behavior change outreach in a way that will shift how they think about and conduct educational outreach efforts going forward, and will leave them feeling more confident about putting this practice into action.
The workshop will cover key steps to creating a successful behavior change effort — from determining one's target behavior and audiences, to conducting research, to developing a plan with creative components purposefully designed to influence behavior. Each participants will be given their own behavior change toolkit.
Click here for more information and to register for the event
Study: One-third of big groundwater basins in distress
About one third of Earth's largest groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted by human consumption, despite having little accurate data about how much water remains in them, according to two new studies led by the University of California, Irvine (UCI), using data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites.
This means that significant segments of Earth's population are consuming groundwater quickly without knowing when it might run out, the researchers conclude. The findings are published today in Water Resources Research.
"Available physical and chemical measurements are simply insufficient," said UCI professor and principal investigator Jay Famiglietti, who is also the senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Given how quickly we are consuming the world's groundwater reserves, we need a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left."
The studies are the first to comprehensively characterize global groundwater losses with data from space, using readings generated by NASA's twin GRACE satellites. GRACE measures dips and bumps in Earth's gravity, which are affected by the mass of water. In the first paper, researchers found that 13 of the planet's 37 largest aquifers studied between 2003 and 2013 were being depleted while receiving little to no recharge.
Continued on NASA’s website here »
It’s all about keeping it clean: Progress made in effort to improve Lakeland lakes
LAKELAND - As rainfall makes its journey from high ground to low, it brings with it evidence of every dripping oil pan, the fertilizer captured in grass clippings left in the street, tar-stained cigarette butts, browning leaves, discarded bottles and civilization's other castoffs.
If it flows, it flows downhill, and it's not surprising that in a city named for its waters that the terminus of this hydraulic conveyor belt is often a lake.
It's on one of the 38 named lakes, Lake Bonny, that you'd have found Lakes Management Specialist Sandra George dipping a probe into the water and telling Environmental Technician Cody O'Gorman where the water ends and the muck begins.
"Two-point-three meters," George said as the sonde, an electronic sensor probe, began reporting water quality information onto a two-color screen. "Maybe try two-point-two to start."
O'Gorman lowered a clear cylinder into the lake using marks on the rope to level it right above the muck layer. He dropped a metal weight down the rope, snapping closed the spring-loaded doors at the ends of the cylinder.
A good sample. No muck, the stinking pollutant-filled organic sediment of past environmental sins. Lake Bonny, like Lake Hollingsworth before it was dredged at the turn of the century, is more muck than clean water.
Continued in The Ledger »
Bondi adds Florida to lawsuit against federal wetland protections
BRADENTON – This week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has joined Florida with seven other states in a suit challenging new federal rules designed to better protect the wetlands.
The suit claims that the new federal rules from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are "an attempt by two agencies of the federal government to usurp the states' primary responsibility for the management, protection, and care of intrastate waters and lands."
The lawsuit was filed by Georgia, who has been joined by Florida, West Virginia, Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Utah and Wisconsin. The suit cites two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that ruled that the EPA and USACOE were protecting wetlands that did not meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act because they were only wet seasonally.
Florida is second to only Alaska in total square miles of wetlands. Bondi says that Florida is better suited to establish the regulatory rules necessary to protect the state's waterways than the federal government.
The new rules are opposed by both the development and agriculture industries. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has praised Bondi for joining the suit.
"The unconstitutional expansion of the EPA's jurisdiction over the waters of the United States not only infringes on states' authority, but also it threatens the sound environmental protection programs we have in place today," said Putnam in a statement.
Source: Bradenton Times
Scott vetoes money for controversial water-farming projects
Florida legislators, some of whom got helicopter rides and hefty donations to their political action committees, approved millions of taxpayer dollars for a water-farming project that critics compared to corporate welfare.
Now Gov. Rick Scott has wiped it out with the stroke of his pen.
Last week, Scott vetoed a $4.5 million water-farming appropriation in this year's budget. He did so, according to his veto letter, because "water storage projects are more appropriately supported" by the state's five water management districts — not by the taxpayers of the entire state.
When the South Florida Water Management District first launched its water-farming project in 2005, it used money from the taxpayers of its own 16-county area. The project paid ranchers to hold back excess rainwater from filling up Lake Okeechobee, which is surrounded by an unstable dike. When the lake gets too full, the excess is dumped into estuaries on each side of the state, causing algae blooms and fish kills that hurt the economy.
The agency sees water farming — sometimes known as "dispersed water" — as a way to create a series of "reservoirs" without the expense of building anything permanent. Water farming is also considered a better alternative than buying U.S. Sugar land south of the lake to create a flow-way that mimics the way the Everglades' original River of Grass ran through South Florida, since the sugar giant doesn't want to sell.
However, an audit last year by the water district's inspector general found that paying the ranchers and farmers for water farming costs the taxpayers far more than holding that water on public land. As for helping with Lake Okeechobee's high water levels, scientists say water farming stores just a fraction of the water that's needed to be effective.
Continued in The Tampa Times »
LE/AD sponsors cleanups for Lakes Appreciation Month
Lakes Appreciation Month is here! The North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) sponsors Lakes Appreciation Month each July nationwide to draw attention to the value and importance of lakes and reservoirs.
Polk County residents have the opportunity to celebrate their beautiful lakes (over 500 lakes) with a lake cleanup. Lakes Education/Action Drive (LE/AD), along with the City of Lakeland, Lakeland Clean & Beautiful, City of Winter Haven, Keep Winter Haven Clean & Beautiful, and Keep Polk County Beautiful are helping to coordinate the efforts with other agencies and groups with one goal in mind – removing trash from our lakes and leaving Polk County’s lakes better than they were before!
Here's what you can do:
GARBAGE BAGS AND GLOVES WILL BE SUPPLIED
As an individual or family: Clean up your favorite lake any day/any time during the month of July. To honor our dedicated volunteers, those who pre-register and return their registration, wrap up report and surveys to LE/AD, will receive a complimentary gift card. You must be a LE/AD member to receive a gift card. If you haven’t signed up for LE/AD just visit our website at www.le-ad.org and fill out an application today!
As an organized group: All members of the group who pre-register and return their registration, wrap up report and surveys to LE/AD, will receive a pizza party!
Download information packet
Hydrilla help needed from Florida LAKEWATCHers
From the UF/IFAS Hydrilla IPM* Team & Florida LAKEWATCH
Florida LAKEWATCHERs, your help is needed!
Did you attend a Florida LAKEWATCH regional meeting last year (2014) and receive educational materials on hydrilla management?
The UF/IFAS Hydrilla IPM Team in partnership with Florida LAKEWATCH would like your input on the materials so we can improve them and produce new materials that would be useful to you!
If you did not receive the educational materials but would still like to provide input you can review the material online while doing the survey.
Please use this link to complete the survey: https://ufl.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_2rynL0BNvJtZL4p
Please complete the survey if possible using the web link, if this is not possible you can call 352-273-3954 so that a person can record your survey answers. Please leave a message with your number and someone will call you back.
The survey will remain open for 6 weeks, closing on August 12th 2015.
* IPM=Integrated Pest Management
What is Florida LAKEWATCH? »
Polk commissioners okay two SWFWMD agreements
By Tom Palmer
BARTOW – Polk County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve two agreements with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). One is to continue working toward forming a county-wide water supply agency and the other is to seek funding to develop future water supplies.
"This is an important step," said County Manager Jim Freeman, who explained this advances an effort underway for the past 10 years to come up with a way to develop alternative water supplies to avoid over pumping the Floridan aquifer.
According to projections outlined in the recently published Central Florida Water Initiative report, Polk will need an additional 47 million gallons per day within the next 20 years just to satisfy demand by municipal utilities.
Continued in The Ledger »
Free workshop helps Polk County residents to love their lakes
July is Lakes Appreciation Month!
We All Live in a Watershed...
Join Polk County Extension on Tuesday, July 21, for a Lakes Workshop
At this workshop, participants will learn the basics of lake water quality and the factors which influence it. The focus of the workshop will be on community solutions for water quality and actions individuals can take to help local water quality.
Who should attend? Lakefront residents, lakefront business owners, any resident who wants to help improve our lakes' water quality.
Where? Winter Haven Public Library
When? Tuesday, July 21, 5:30 - 7pm
How much does it cost? Free!
Photo: Jeff Spence, Polk County Natural Resources
Register online »