Water-Related News

SWFWMD to hold public workshop on ranking water bodies for minimum level/flow rules

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is seeking public input about the order in which minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for lakes, wetlands, rivers, streams and aquifers in the District will be determined. Legislation requires the District to review and, if necessary, revise the schedule each year.

A public workshop will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29 at the District’s Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301. The workshop will provide an important opportunity for local governments, residents and the public to be part of the scheduling of minimum flows and levels for priority water bodies.

A minimum flow or level is the limit at which further water withdrawals will cause significant harm to the water resources or environment. The District’s Governing Board sets these limits as part of achieving the balance between meeting water needs and sustaining Florida’s natural systems.

The adopted minimum flows and levels priority list and schedule for 2017 is available on the District’s website here. The draft 2018 list will be published on the site following the Governing Board’s August meeting. The revised schedule will be considered for adoption at the Board’s meeting in October.

Written comments on the draft priority list and schedule may be submitted to Doug Leeper, MFLs Program Lead, at doug.leeper@watermatters.org or to 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, Florida, 34604 no later than Oct. 6.

For more information, please contact Doug Leeper at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4272.

Now you can take your boater safety exam online

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FWC now allows online providers to offer boating safety exam

Access to Florida’s Boater Education Temporary Certificate Program has been expanded, thanks to work done by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to make allowances for online course providers to offer the required courses over the internet.

In August of 2017, the FWC amended Florida Administrative Code 68D-36.108 to allow the temporary certificate exam to be offered in an online version. This change makes it easier and more convenient for both vessel operators and vessel liveries to comply with Florida’s boater education laws, which require liveries to verify that customers born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, have met Florida’s boating safety education requirements before allowing them to rent their vessels.

Online temporary certificate exam providers will create a system that allows 24-hour, seven-day a week accessibility to the exam using tablets, laptops, or other electronic devices. This added convenience will make it easier for both visitors and residents by allowing them to take the test before a vacation to Florida.

Currently, one online boating safety education provider, Boat Ed, has completed the process to offer the exam online. Boat Ed has been a leader and innovator in boating safety education since 1995. Study or learning materials are available on the Boat Ed site to prepare students for the exam, improve their boating knowledge and increase their chances of successfully completing the exam on the first try. The exam costs $3 and study materials are available for an additional charge. A link to the exam can be found at Boat-Ed.com/FloridaRental/.

Prior to this change, paper exams were the only option and were required to be completed and passed by rental vessel operators. The ability for liveries to continue to offer paper exams has not changed with the addition of this online option. Liveries can still purchase and administer the paper exams, as long as their contract and insurance are valid.

The temporary certificate exam is a knowledge check, not a full education course. It cannot be converted into a boater safety identification card that is valid for life. Temporary certificates are not valid in any other state and do not meet boater safety education requirements in other states.

The online exam will be 25 questions, randomly selected from a large pool of questions. The cost for the exam will remain $3. Upon successful completion of the exam, students will be provided an electronic proof of their successful completion and their passing score. A livery will be able to inspect this proof to ensure that a prospective vessel renter has met Florida’s boating safety education requirements.

The new change offers various benefits to liveries:

  • Liveries are not required to contract with any other company to use the online exam.
  • A link that will send customers directly to the online exam can be provided by liveries.
  • Liveries are not required to continue purchasing paper exams from the FWC.
  • The burden of mailing paper tests back to the FWC is removed with the online option.
  • Liveries will be able to provide speedier service to customers who take the exam in advance of renting.

The FWC encourages liveries to transition to the new online exam system to increase accessibility and streamline the testing process for renters interested in enjoying Florida’s beautiful waterways by boat.

Massive raw sewage dump strikes Lake Parker

LAKELAND — A broken sewer line has dumped more than 200,000 gallons of raw wastewater into the west side of Lake Parker near the intersection of Valencia Street and Lake Parker Drive.

City crews, aided by a contractor, endeavored to stem the flow of raw sewage into the 2,100-acre lake late Thursday afternoon.

They expect to have the leak stopped by Thursday evening, with repairs to begin early Friday morning. “It was a big one and it was one that we couldn’t shut off” because of the highly pressurized water flow, said Rick Ruede,

Lakeland’s wastewater collections manager. “We’re probably losing about 800 gallons a minute.”

A better estimate of the amount of effluent discharged in the lake will be available by Friday morning, or sooner, he said, adding that the environmental impact should be minimal in the long term.

“There will be a little short-term impact,” Ruede said, “but it will all get dissipated.”

The spill prompted the Florida Department of Health to issue a health advisory late Thursday afternoon, urging people to take precautions with coming into contact with the lake water.

The line break “presents several health risks to humans” because of microbes in the untreated human sewage that can cause gastrointestinal issues and other conditions, according to the advisory.

Report outlines Florida’s major environmental concerns

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Spoiler alert: Three of the six are about water

A coalition of environmental and other organizations is distributing a sternly worded report to all candidates in Florida for federal and state offices about worsening threats to the state’s natural resources.

On Wednesday, the alliance publicly released “Trouble in Paradise,” an initiative started by Nathaniel Pryor Reed, a conservationist and co-founder of 1,000 Friends of Florida who died recently.

“Tragically, he did not live to see this report to fruition,” Paul Owens, president of 1,000 Friends of Florida, said during a media conference.

To complete Reed’s final initiative, the 1,000 Friends organization partnered with Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Florida Springs Council, Florida Wildlife Corridor, Florida Wildlife Federation, the Howard T. Odom Florida Springs Institute and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

The result is a document intended to educate this state’s potential elected officials about what Owens calls “the greatest challenges facing Florida’s environment.”

Although the organizations are making sure paper or email editions of the report reach candidates in upcoming state and federal elections, Owens said they encourage voters to make sure contenders in local races are also aware of the findings and recommendations.

“These are critical issues at every level of government in Florida,” Owens said.

The study outlines six priorities that the partnership contends need urgent attention as well as specific geographic areas it considers especially endangered, including the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, the Indian River Lagoon, Apalachicola River and Bay and several natural springs.

Throughout the report, the authors call for enforcing environmental protections “already in place,” sufficiently funding agencies responsible for overseeing those duties, appointing “strong and effective” agency leaders and passing legislation “to restore and improve workable programs and address current and future challenges.”

Polk case to move forward: Judge denies motion to dismiss Peace River water fight hearing

Polk County has said that massive withdrawal will impact its long-term plans to increase aquifer recharge in the Peace Creek Basin.

LAKELAND — Polk County’s request for a day in court over a water dispute can move forward after a state judge rejected a motion to dismiss the case.

The Polk Regional Water Cooperative, Fort Meade and Wauchula asked an administrative law judge earlier this summer to hear the case after it appeared the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud) would allow a 50-year permit to more than double the amount of water the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority could withdraw.

In response to Manasota’s and Swiftmud’s attempt to dismiss the case, Francine Ffolkes, an administrative law judge in Tallahassee, wrote that “the petitioners (Polk County) essentially allege that their present water supply planning activities could be affected by issuance of the water use permit to the (Manasota) Authority.”

“The Petitioners’ allegations, taken as true, do not constitute pure speculation or conjecture,” Ffolkes wrote.

Ffolkes wrote in her order that in reviewing the motion to dismiss, she must assume that the allegations in the petitions are true.

Walker Road woes: Residents say park worsened flooding

LAKELAND — Joseph and Ashley Payne expected the house they bought in 2015 to be their “forever home.”

The house in northwest Lakeland sits on 3 acres, offering plenty of room for their five children to romp. Their youngest child was even born in the house.

Now, though, Joseph Payne said they are contemplating a move. The reason? In recent months, much of that 3-acre property has been covered with water.

“The other day we were at home and I told the kids, ‘Go out and play,’ and literally the only place they can play in our yard is on the septic tank,” Payne said. “That’s the only place they could go because the rest of it is just a mud pit.”

The Paynes’ property on Ollie Road borders Walker Road, a two-lane, north-south thoroughfare in a rural setting. Their home is directly west of Walker Road Park, a county facility that opened in April 2017.

Payne and residents of Walker Road complain that the creation of the park has worsened perennial flooding problems in the area. During one of the rainiest years on record in the Lakeland area, standing water has become commonplace in yards on the west side of the road.

Algae monitor sponsored by NASA installed in Lake Okeechobee

Satellite images tell us every few days how an algae bloom on Lake Okeechobee — the source of blooms in the St. Lucie River — has been growing and shrinking over the summer.

Now there's a device in the middle of the lake that will give us updates every hour.

On Thursday, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce installed a SeaPRISM on a platform in the middle of Lake Okeechobee.

The sensor developed by NASA can look into the lake every hour and, by the color of the water, determine how much blue-green algae it contains.

More:TCPalm's complete coverage of water issues

The idea is for real-time data from the SeaPRISM (Photometer Revision for Incident Surface Measurements) to be relayed to NASA and be available to researchers (and the public) on the agency's Aeronet website within a couple of hours.

The hourly data will help scientists figure out how algae blooms develop and why their size fluctuates from from week to week, month to month and year to year. That information will help them predict when algae will bloom in the lake, and that could help water managers prevent blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Rain barrels help environment, conserve water

According to UF/IFAS researchers, landscape irrigation makes up approximately 50 percent of household water use, so using a rain barrel “also cuts down on your water bill.”

BARTOW — During Florida’s afternoon showers, which can average one inch of rain, about 1,000 gallons of water will run off the roof of a typical Florida home.

Experts with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hoping more homeowners will capture that water in rain barrels and use it to water lawns, wash cars and fill up pools.

“Drinking-quality water is getting scarcer,” said Becky Schaffer, a master gardener since 2010. She hosted a rain barrel workshop at the UF/IFAS extension office in Bartow on Saturday morning. She said she wants people “to make efficient use of rainwater and prevent storm-water runoff carrying pollutants into our water bodies.”

According to UF/IFAS researchers, landscape irrigation makes up approximately 50 percent of household water use, so using a rain barrel “also cuts down on your water bill,” Schaffer said.

Basic instructions for making a rain barrel:

Public workshop Aug. 16 will address Wekiva Basin MFLs in the CFWI area

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MAITLAND — The St. Johns River Water Management District will hold a public workshop to discuss the peer review of Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) for water bodies within the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) area.

This workshop will include discussion of surface water model peer review plans for MFLs water bodies within the Wekiva Basin.

The district is seeking public comment at this workshop on the district’s peer review selection criteria and on the recommended peer review panel for the surface water models that will be used in the determination and assessment of Wekiva Basin MFLs.

WHAT: Public workshop to discuss peer review selection criteria and recommended peer review panel for the surface water models that will be used for Wekiva Basin MFLs in the CFWI.

WHEN: Aug. 16, 2018, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

WHERE: SJRWMD Maitland Service Center
Wekiva and Econ rooms, 2nd floor
601 S. Lake Destiny Road
Maitland, FL 32751

To join the meeting by phone, call 1-888-670-3525 and enter passcode 4366412939#.

Establishing MFLs is an important goal in the District’s work of planning for adequate water supplies for today and for future generations while also protecting the District’s water resources. The district is setting MFLs for lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, springs and aquifers.

SWFWMD performing prescribed burns in August and September in Polk County

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 year. That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns in August and September on the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve Hampton Tract in Polk County.

The Hampton Tract is located north of Rock Ridge Road, east of U.S. Highway 98, north of Lakeland. Approximately 2,100 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. Visit the link below to watch a video that explains why igniting prescribed burns now prepares lands for the next wildfire season.

Water conservation rebates and incentives available

BARTOW – The Polk Regional Water Conservation Team and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) are working to bring rebates and incentives to water customers of Polk County. The goal is to help save water and money on water bills. Not all of the programs listed below are available at all utilities. Please call your utility provider to confirm participation.


Water Conservation Kits containing a low-flow showerhead, faucet aerators for kitchen and bath, toilet leak detector tabs, and more are available free of charge.

Toilet Rebates Homes and businesses built in or before 1994 that currently have 3.5 (or more) gallon per flush toilets would qualify for this rebate. Limit 2 per home. Rebate is $75-$100 per toilet. The utility provider must be contacted before removal and installation.

Rain Sensors Free wireless rain sensors are available if you currently have an automatic irrigation system.

Smart Irrigation Controller Rebate for homes and businesses who use more than 15,000 gallons of water per month. A 75% rebate, up to $300 including installation.

Landscape Retrofit Rebate for businesses, HOAs, and homes using more than 15,000 gallons of water per month. This rebate is approximately 75% (or up to $3,000) for those who agree to change out a minimum of 250 square feet of high water-use landscape and irrigation for Florida-Friendly™ plants and low-flow or no-flow irrigation.

Landscape and Irrigation Evaluation for homes and businesses who use more than 15,000 gallons of water per month. Our contractor will replace your current rain sensor and lower your irrigation run times if necessary, review your plant and irrigation placement, check for breaks and make recommendations for reducing your water use. Cost is free.

Who to Contact

  • Auburndale — Rachel Mott — (863) 965-5500
  • Dundee — Clifton Bernard — (863) 538-8330
  • Haines City — Mary Hayes — (863) 421-3695
  • Lake Alfred — Sue Gaudlap — (863) 298-5458
  • Lake Hamilton — Sara Irvine — (863) 439-1910
  • Lakeland — Daphne McCann — (863) 834-6193
  • Mulberry — Ron Borchers (863) 425-1125 x-251
  • Polk City — Chastity Hall — (863) 984-1375
  • Winter Haven — Keeli Carlton — (863) 291-5853 x678
  • Unincorporated Polk County — Jacqueline Hollister — (863) 298-4236

Florida LAKEWATCH volunteers needed!

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Florida LAKEWATCH was created by the state legislature in 1991 to enhance scientific knowledge about state lakes. According to University of Florida IFAS Natural Resources and Conservation Extension Agent Shannon Carnevale, LAKEWATCH has sampled approximately 100 lakes over its 20-year history but few of them have continuous, long-term data.

“Because of this, we are hoping to add new LAKEWATCH volunteers to some of the program’s historical lakes,” Carnevale said. If you live on one of the “most wanted” lakes, have a functional boat and are willing to donate around two hours of time per month, experts need your help taking water samples. Sampling kits are provided. New volunteers get two hours of hands on training.

The “most wanted” lakes are: Ashton, Bonnett, Blue North, Cummings, Cypress, Dexter, Dinner, Eloise, Fannie, Gem, Halloway, Henry, Ida, Mabel, Mountain, Parker, Ring, River, Rochelle, Starr, Van and Wailes. Email Shannon Carnevale for more information.

Florida Cabinet to vote on BS Ranch

LAKELAND — Residents in East Lakeland have smelled and talked about the stench from BS Ranch off and on for more than a year.

Now, Gov. Rick Scott will have a chance to hear about it.

Scott and the Florida Cabinet will vote Aug. 14 on whether to uphold an administrative judge’s decision that stated the county was not in compliance when it made a change to its comprehensive plan after BS Ranch & Farm began running its solid waste facility.

The county has challenged Tallahassee-based Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk’s decision in March that officials never offered any evidence during a hearing last December to counter the initial approval of BS Ranch’s development in East Lakeland.

Edward de la Parte, a Tampa lawyer hired by the county, said he will argue that Van Wyk exceeded the scope of her authority.

“She improperly expanded her authority to determine whether the land development code was in compliance,” de la Parte said.

In addition, de la Parte said Van Wyk infringed on the commission’s ability to make policy decisions.

Palmer: Keep an eye on local water issues

When I began covering water issues 40 years ago, the conventional wisdom in Polk County was that someday Tampa would launch a “water raid” on Polk County.

It wasn’t irrational. Utilities in the Tampa Bay area had already done that in Pasco County and had dibs on water from springs farther north as they engaged in lengthy legal battles among themselves over water allocations.

Tampa Bay utilities finally worked out their differences and later backed off from a plan to develop a giant wellfield at the edge of Polk County, which threatened to diminish Polk’s well system.

Then came the Orlando area with a proposed well permit that potentially could cause the same effect on the other side of Polk County.

Polk officials were ready to go to court to challenge the permit.

Gov. Jeb Bush stepped in and stopped another regional water war before it got started. Instead, he told everyone to work together.

That eventually resulted in the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI), an organized plan to figure out how much water was left, how much everyone needed, and how to come up with a plan to make up the projected deficits everyone faced unless they decide to slow down the development wave that created the demand for more water.

Now comes the conflict with the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority (PRMWSA).

The regional utility applied for a permit last fall to double the amount of water it could pump from the Peace River, the culmination of its own regional water planning efforts to deal with projected growth in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties while avoiding impacts on the already stressed aquifer.

Somehow the folks at the Polk Regional Water Supply Authority, which also were working on their own plan as an outgrowth of the CFWI project, didn’t know about the downstream permit request until a few months ago.

Regional water authority hopes to get litigation dismissed

Utilities in Polk County want to block Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority’s expansion plans

The regional authority that supplies water to the counties of Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto and the city of North Port is attempting to get a lawsuit filed against it by seven government entities in Polk County dismissed or settled.

The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority is a coalition comprised of Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties that dates back to 1982. Its mission is to interconnect utility systems to ensure water keeps flowing across jurisdictional boundaries.

From its treatment plant on the Peace River, which it acquired from a private utility in 1991, the authority now supplies about 28.2 million gallons daily to three of its four county members and to non-member North Port.

Although it does not need the additional supply now, the authority seeks a permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to create a third reservoir at its treatment plant in DeSoto County and increase its withdrawals from the river during the rainy season from a maximum of 120 million gallons a day to 258 million gallons a day. Most of its withdrawals are stored in underground aquifer systems and then pumped out during the dry season to meet its commitments to customers.

In May, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative (joined by Polk County and the cities of Bartow, Fort Meade, Lakeland, Wauchula and Winter Haven) filed litigation against the Peace River authority and the water management district. The plaintiffs want the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings to block the water management district from issuing the water use permit.

Utilities in Polk County currently rely on ground water and do not withdraw from the Peace River. Yet, according to their complaint, “traditional groundwater supplies may be insufficient to satisfy the existing and future water supply demand of Polk County in a sustainable manner.”