Current News Items (within the last 30 days)
Want to be a SCUBAnaut? Find out more at open house Dec. 9th
SCUBAnauts International™(SNI) is creating a new Tampa chapter and is having an open house to promote the program and attract new participants. The event will be from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in the Channelside Room at the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa. (map)
The SNI marine science education program (previously SCUBA Scouts USA) was founded by CAPT David Olson in Palm Harbor, Florida, in May of 2001 in an effort to introduce young men and women, ages 12-18, to informal science education through underwater exploration. Due to the scientific rather than recreational nature of SNI, SCUBAnauts soon created their own identity.
SNI has grown considerably in the Tampa Bay area, has received favorable notoriety nationally, and has been very successful in preparing and assisting participating youth through meet leadership opportunities that will ultimately produce our best hope for successful citizens and leaders of tomorrow. The addition of a Tarpon Springs chapter in September 2008 is focused towards exploring the undocumented reefs of the Springs Coast of West Florida. This new information will provide scientsits with baseline data to monitor these reefs. A Key West Chapter was formed in July 2009, which plans to monitor and educate locals about the Florida Key's vital coral reef ecosystems. The Lake Hitchcock Chapter in Western Massachusetts, established in October 2009, is providing unique opportunities to underpriviledged youth in the region and promoting interest in science through SCUBA diving.
SNI looks forward to the challenge of increasing the opportunity for young explorers and leaders of tomorrow. These challenges are met by enlisting new members, recruiting top notch mentors, and continuing to establish new SNI Chapters nationwide and internationally.
The new Tampa chapter will focus on springs resources.
Open House Flyer
Gulf Coast Vulnerable to Extreme Erosion in Category 1 Hurricanes
New Model to Help Community Plan
Seventy percent of the Gulf of Mexico shoreline is vulnerable to extreme erosion during even the weakest hurricanes, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey released just prior to the start of the 2012 hurricane season.
USGS scientists used state-of-the-art modeling to determine the probabilities of erosion, overwash and inundation during direct hurricane landfall for sandy beaches along the entire U.S. Gulf Coast shoreline.
The research is expected to help emergency managers at local, state and federal levels as they prepare for hurricane events in this and future seasons. Planners will be able to determine how different categories of hurricanes would impact their beaches and surrounding communities, helping them better protect lives and property. The report also includes an interactive map that allows users to focus on different parts of the Gulf Coast shoreline to view how the probability of erosion, caused by waves and storm surge, will vary depending on hurricane intensity.
"The Gulf Coast's beaches provide abundant recreational opportunities, contribute substantially to the local economy, and demand the highest real estate values," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "This important research raises awareness on the specific nature of the vulnerability of these beautiful beaches to impacts from even Cat-1 hurricanes so that property damage can be minimized through proper planning."
In a storm, high waves and storm surge can act together to erode beaches and inundate low-lying lands; during hurricane landfall, these changes can sometimes be catastrophic.
"Beaches along the Gulf of Mexico are extremely vulnerable to erosion during hurricanes, in part, because of low elevations along the coast," said Hilary Stockdon, a USGS research oceanographer and lead author of the study. "For example, the average elevation of sand dunes on the west coast of Florida is eight feet. On Florida’s Atlantic coast, the average is 15 feet."
During the landfall of a category-1 storm, where winds are between 75 and 94 miles per hour, overwash is very likely for 70 percent of Gulf Coast beaches. Overwash occurs when waves and storm surge overtop dunes and transport sand landward. Overwash is likely at these locations because of increased water levels at the shoreline. During category-1 hurricane events on the Gulf Coast, wave height and storm surge combine to increase water levels at the shoreline by 14 and a half feet higher than their normal levels.
"People continue to build communities in coastal areas that shift and move with each passing storm," said Stockdon. "This model helps us predict the potential impact of future storms and allows us to identify where the most vulnerable areas are located along the coast."
Additional findings from the report show that during a category-1 storm landfall, 27 percent of sandy beaches along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico are projected to be inundated, which occurs when increased water levels completely submerge beaches and dunes. If category-5 storms occur, where winds are 157 miles per hour or higher, 89 percent of these beaches are likely to be inundated during a direct landfall.
USGS scientists used methodology developed from a decade of USGS research on storm-driven coastal change hazards as the basis for these calculations. Observational data were combined with sophisticated hydrodynamic modeling to predict the coastal changes provided in the report. As new data and storm predictions become available, the report's analysis will be updated to describe how coastal vulnerability may change in the future.
More information, including a link to the full report
Congressional accord reached on flood insurance rate delay
Flood insurance bipartisan group of legislators from the U.S. House and Senate have reached an agreement to delay flood insurance rate increases for at least four years for millions of homeowners.
The agreement, reached between U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif, author of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, and other congressional leaders, would delay the rate hikes for four years and require FEMA to complete an affordability study before increasing any flood insurance premiums in the future. A companion bill is expected to be filed by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
The tentative deal, which still must be voted on in both the House and Senate, was hailed by Gov. Rick Scott and members of Florida's congressional delegation, which urged a delay in the rate increases.
Continued on the Miami Herald Naked Politics blog...
NFWF Announces $15.7 Million for Gulf Restoration Projects in Florida
Projects funded as a part of initial investment of funds derived from settlement of criminal charges against BP and Transocean
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) on Nov. 14th announced the funding of $15.7 million for six Florida projects that address high priority conservation needs. The projects, developed in consultation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and federal resource agencies, are designed to remedy harm or reduce the risk of future harm to natural resources that were affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The moneys are the first disbursements from NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created earlier this year as part of the settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and BP and Transocean to resolve certain criminal charges against both companies in relation to the spill.
The announcement represents the initial obligation of funds from the first disbursements received by the Gulf Fund. Under the allocation formula and other provisions contained in the plea agreements, $356 million will be paid into the Gulf Fund over the next five years for conservation projects in the the state of Florida.
More information about the funded projects
Support urged for dry cleaning contamination sites program that saw sharp budget cuts
By Bruce Ritchie
Some speciality cleanup contractors are asking legislators to restore funding for a Department of Environmental Protection program that helps pay for cleaning up dry cleaner contamination sites.
Dry cleaners typically use a solvent called perchloroethylene to remove stains from garments. Perchloroethylene, which can increase the risk of cancer for those working around the chemical, is considered a hazardous waste and has been found at dry cleaner sites, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Legislature in 1994 established the Dry-cleaning Solvent Cleanup Program at DEP for cleaning up sites and groundwater. The department says 139 sites have been cleaned up. Another 1,284 are eligible under the program with work underway at 192.
Continued in The Florida Current...
Pew/Audubon report: Florida’s coastal birds could face threat to food supply
Already pressured by a steady loss of habitat, many of Florida's imperiled and iconic coastal waterbirds are vulnerable to declines in small fish that are necessary for their survival, according to a report by Audubon Florida and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
"Fins and Feathers: Why little fish are a big deal to Florida's coastal waterbirds" examines the crucial link between birds and the diverse array of small fish that are a critical food source. Declines in the populations of these fish, known alternatively as forage fish, prey fish or bait-fish, could threaten imperiled birds such as Brown Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Black Skimmers and Reddish Egrets, according to the report.
"In Florida, our environment is directly linked to our quality of life and our economy," said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida's Director of Wildlife Conservation. "This report shows how important bait-fish are to Florida's coastal birds, environment, communities and economy. Fisheries policy must consider the ecological and economic vitality that hinges on these smallest of fish."
Few regulations limit the amount of forage fish such as sardines and herring that are hauled out of Florida's coastal waters each year. Fishery managers can help conserve Florida's forage fish and its natural resources by accounting for the needs of predators such as seabirds when setting fishing rules in Florida's coastal waters. Bird conservation efforts historically have focused on other threats such as habitat loss, with less emphasis on ensuring prey abundance and availability. With many birds already pressured by a steady loss of habitat, this report reveals a new and critical conservation gap at a time when leaders can act before it's too late.
Continued on Audubon of Florida's website...
Report: 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands are being lost annually
The United States is losing wetlands in coastal watersheds at a significant rate according to a new report released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report, "Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009", tracked wetland loss on the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf, and Great Lakes coasts. It concludes that more than 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands are being lost on average each year, an increase from the previous study. EPA initiated a federal Interagency Coastal Wetlands Workgroup in response to the losses identified in the previous report, with the goal of reducing coastal wetland losses. The agencies are collaborating to better understand how wetland trends are affected by land use practices and other factors, and how federal, state, and local programs can better address threats to coastal wetlands.
Information on coastal wetlands and the federal Workgroup can be found at the EPA Coastal Wetlands webpage.
View the full report
Water Policy Committee Accomplished Much
By Tom Palmer
Polk’s Water Policy Committee was recently disbanded
Commissioners recognized the members for their service at the Nov.5 commission meeting.
The idea of abolishing the committee isn’t a sign that commissioners don’t think there are still unresolved water issues ahead, but more that the committee’s job is done and now it’s time to move ahead.
Commissioners appointed the committee in 2001.
At the time Polk County did not have a well-defined water policy or very good water planning.
Instead, what passed for Polk water policy had been a series of schemes that involved trying to form coalitions with other inland counties or trying to convince anyone who would listen that coastal counties were plotting to steal “our” water.
By the time the committee was appointed, Polk’s utility department was being cited by the Southwest Florida Water Management District for pumping a lot more water out of the ground than its permit allowed because county officials had given the green light for a massive growth surge in the Four Corners area without any serious thought to how it would supply basic infrastructure.
Part of Polk’s utility system consisted of a network of small plants county officials had taken over to bail out developers or plants in poor locations based on developer lobbying rather than good engineering.
Some of Polk’s water problems were hard to miss.
For the past 20 years, large sections of the Peace River in Polk County had been going dry regularly.
Continued in The Ledger...
SFWMD to host 4th annual "16-County Ecosystem Summit" Dec. 6th
The County Coalition is a multiple County based advisory group organized primarily for the purpose of providing the general public, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Legislature, and various groups and committees with a body which will present a variety of issues dealing with the health and welfare of the lakes, estuaries, and riverine systems consisting of Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries, and Lake Worth Lagoon, and all of the bodies of water connected thereto.
For the past three years in December, the County Coalition has hosted the "16 County Ecosystem Summit" (the 16 counties which comprise the South Florida Water Management District), during which representatives from each of the 16 counties gathered to discuss and adopt shared legislative priorities associated with the health and welfare of South Florida's ecosystem. In October, representatives from the 16 Counties worked together at their first ever lobby day in Washington, D.C.
This year's 16 County Ecosystem Summit will be held on Friday, December 6 at 10:00 a.m. at the Judge William L. Hendry Courtroom, located at 304 NW 2nd Street in Okeechobee. At the meeting, the counties will establish this year's state and federal legislative priorities. Colonel Alan M. Dodd, District Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District and Blake C. Guillory, Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District will provide updates on the progress of the priorities of the 16 counties and an outlook of agency priorities in 2014.
Sewage Sludge: A Pool Of Pathogens
By John Rehill
Waste water treatment plant facilities retrieve millions of gallons a day of toxic water, containing thousands of different chemicals, pathogens and heavy metals. It is all reduced to a thick slurry and in many municipalities that soup is dried and processed into pellets that are then sold or given away to homeowners, landscapers and farmers to use as fertilizer. Could we be disposing our most toxic substances in a way that puts them in our food chain?
Dr. Sydney Bacchus demonstrates how municipalities that dry and reuse sludge are at risk of contaminating their communities with heavy metals and pathogens that are responsible for thousands of premature deaths in the United States every year.
More than just raw sewage makes its way to a waste water treatment plant. The waste water pumped in is put through a process that reduces it to the sludge and then is sent to an on-or-off property location to decompose. The composted product is sometimes put into pellets or bulk and made available for county projects and the private sector to use as a fertilizer replacement.
Continued in The Bradenton Times...
EPA Webcast on Volunteer Monitoring Nov. 19th
Volunteer Monitoring is Focus of Watershed Academy Webcast
The US Environmental Protection Agency will hold a Watershed Academy Webcast on November 19 from 1p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern on "Re-engaging Your Volunteer Monitoring Organization." This Webcast is designed to help to reinvigorate volunteer water monitoring organizations. The webcast will
- review volunteer monitoring online forums and resources
- provide tips on volunteer recruitment and retention with lessons learned from the Alabama Water Watch 20-year assessment
- explore how the volunteer monitoring community is doing on a national level by looking at trends, successes, and outcomes
Through this interactive event, participants will learn about tools, resources, and strategies to re-engage their volunteer water monitoring program and celebrate our successes across the nation.
Register for the webcast
Geoscientist says groundwater contamination via fracturing "not physically plausible"
By Bruce Ritchie
A geoscientist with experience in hydraulic fracturing operations for the oil and gas industry says studies have shown groundwater contamination from "fracking" is "not physically plausible."
The Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida held an "Energy 101" presentation at the Capitol on Tuesday that included comments by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Rep. Ray Rodrigues. Diaz is chairman of the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee.
Rodrigues, R-Estero, is sponsor of HB 71, which would require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to establish an online registry of fracking chemicals. An identical bill passed the House 92-19 in April but died without action in the Senate amid environmentalists' opposition.
Denise Cox of Panama City, vice president of Storm Energy Ltd., was the main speaker. She said hydraulic fracturing involves only the process of injecting fluids to break up rock containing oil and gas.
She also said media and opposition groups describe all aspects of oil and gas drilling, including drilling and casing wells, as hydraulic fracturing.
Continued in The Florida Current...
Florida DEP issues Everglades permit for stormwater storage and flow
Permit to South Florida Water Management District continues work on Everglades restoration
PALM BEACH COUNTY – On Nov. 6th, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit to the South Florida Water Management District to construct the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin, a structure designed to store 15 billion gallons of water so that it can be treated and moved south to the Everglades. It is one of three storage components of Governor Rick Scott's Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan.
When construction is complete, stormwater - which at peak flow times is released to the ocean - will be safely held in a deep reservoir and later cleaned and redirected to the Everglades. It will allow water managers the flexibility to store stormwater that under certain peak flow scenarios may have been diverted to the ocean or water conservation areas -- and direct flows for treatment prior to entering the Everglades.
The L-8 flow equalization basin will use a 53-foot-deep reservoir capable of storing approximately 45,000 acre-feet of water, or the equivalent of 22,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water. The seven interconnected underground cells will be utilized to effectively manage basin stormwater. During storm events and other peak flow events, the reservoir will act as a storage feature. During dry periods, the reservoir will deliver flows for optimized treatment prior to those flows entering the Everglades.
The below-ground reservoir was a former rock mine site located in central Palm Beach County. The location’s unique geology allows for deep, below-ground storage, reduces water loss through seepage and minimizes levee safety concerns. Construction of embankment protection features is currently underway. The permit authorizes construction of a permanent discharge pump station and inflow feature. Construction of the pump station and inflow spillway is scheduled for November 2013 through April 2015.
FAQs about the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin