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9/1/2015

EPA: Clean water rule in effect despite court ruling

The Environmental Protection Agency says it is going forward with a new federal rule to protect small streams, tributaries and wetlands, despite a court ruling that blocked the measure in 13 central and Western states.

The EPA says the rule, which took effect Friday in more than three dozen states, will safeguard drinking water for millions of Americans.

Opponents pledged to continue to fight the rule, emboldened by a federal court decision Thursday that blocked it from Alaska to Arkansas.

"We see this (rule) as very hurtful to farmers and ranchers and we're going to do everything to stop it politically," said Don Parrish of the American Farm Bureau Federation, one of several farm and business groups that have filed suit against the regulation.

Lawsuits to block the regulation are pending across the country, and the Republican-controlled Congress has moved to thwart it. The House has ignored a White House veto threat and passed a bill to block it, and a Senate committee has passed a measure that would force the EPA to withdraw and rewrite it.

Continued on Phys.org »

9/1/2015

Camp Arbuckle Campground closed due to flooding

Polk County Parks and Recreation staff has evacuated and closed the Lake Arbuckle campground. Lake Arbuckle is southeast of Frostproof.

According to Parks Superintendent Mike Callender, the water in the area has risen and is flowing over the access road and into the park.

“We will continue to monitor, however we don't have any time frame for reopening at this time,” said Callender. Prior to reopening the potable water system will need to be tested, emergency vehicles will need to be able to access and the septic system will need to function.

8/28/2015

Polk County Preparing for Tropical Storm Erika

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BARTOW – Polk County Emergency Management is working with partners at the local and state level to monitor and prepare for any impact from Tropical Storm Erika. There’s much uncertainty as to the intensity and track of the this storm, so we recommend that residents take the following steps now to prepare for the impact of damaging winds and rain that are typically associated with hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

  • Polk County Emergency Management recommends having 72 hours’ worth of food and water for each member of the family including pets
  • Be alert for potential of downed power lines, trees and other street fixtures.
  • Should we experience urban or flash flooding, do not attempt to drive through waters.
  • Clear clogged rain gutters and drains. Hurricanes and tropical storms often bring torrential rain. Providing clear drainage will help prevent misdirected flooding.
  • Bring in outdoor items such as lawn furniture, trash and recycling bins, hanging plants, toys and awnings that can be broken or picked up by strong winds and cause damage.
  • Make sure storage sheds, children’s playhouses or other outbuildings are securely anchored, either to a permanent foundation or with straps and ground anchors.
  • Keep your vehicles fully fueled.
  • Have a certain amount of cash available. If power is lost, ATMs may not be working.
  • Make a record of your personal property. Keep an itemized list of your furniture, clothing and valuables to assist adjusters in case of a claim. Back it up with photographs or video.
  • Protect your insurance policies and other important documents in a secure place like a safe deposit box or a watertight box. Many people back up important documents online.
  • Lock doors and windows to ensure that they are closed tight to help protect against strong winds and rain.

For more information on disaster preparation including how to prepare a home inventory checklist, what you should have in your 72-hour disaster kit, and sandbagging information, visit www.polk-county.net/prepare.

At this time, no school closures or shelter activations have been scheduled. If, in the future, conditions warrant school closures or shelter activations, information will be communicated at that time. Polk County Board of County Commissioners has not issued any government closures.

For the most updated information, please continue to monitor your local news media or call the Citizen’s Information Line at (863) 401-2234 (locally) or toll-free 866-661-0228. Information is also available on PGTV (Bright House 644, Comcast 5 or Verizon 20), or check the county website for updates www.polk-county.net. You may also obtain further emergency information at www.facebook.com/polkcountyem and www.twitter.com/polkemergency.

Information on Erika from the National Hurricane Center »

8/27/2015

Is too much fresh water used to irrigate Florida lawns?

"...researchers from the University of Florida examined the perceptions of homeowners in Orange County, Florida who have automated irrigation systems and looked deeply into their water conservation knowledge and practices."

Wasting fresh water is a real concern. A recent study conducted with homeowners in central Florida found that, on average, 64 percent of the drinking water used by homes went to irrigation. In the summer months, this percentage increased to 88 percent. As the population increases, conservation of fresh water becomes increasingly important.

The Special Issue Section of the current Technology and Innovation – Journal of the National Academy of Inventors focuses on challenges to fresh water from environmental changes and from the human population.

Florida homeowners—ready and willing to comply with government agency-imposed lawn watering restrictions—want to conserve water, although many are confused about how to conserve water. At the same time, many homeowners are also required to have perfect, green lawns or risk being penalized by their Home Owner's Associations (HOAs).

What is a homeowner to do?

In a study entitled "It's Going to Take More Innovation than Technology to Increase Water Conservation Practices," researchers from the University of Florida examined the perceptions of homeowners in Orange County, Florida who have automated irrigation systems and looked deeply into their water conservation knowledge and practices.

"The purpose of [our] study was to examine the perceptions of homeowners…who have automated irrigation systems [about] the use of norms that could be employed to reduce water used for lawn care," said study co-author Liz Felter of the University of Florida.

The researchers also looked at the role of "social marketing" efforts to encourage people to conserve water, the barriers to water conservation, and how peer pressure might be involved in successfully implementing water conservation measures. They wanted to know what barriers might exist to increasing water conservation even when community- based social marketing (CBSM) was employed to encourage conservation.

Continued... »

8/27/2015

Carlos Beruff resigns from SWFWMD board

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MANATEE COUNTY - Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff resigned Wednesday from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, a day after supporting the approval of a controversial permit allowing his friend and fellow developer Pat Neal to build on an environmentally sensitive shoreline.

On Tuesday, Beruff made the motion to approve a wetlands mitigation permit so Neal can build a family compound on mangrove-fringed land facing Anna Maria Sound.

With Beruff leading the way, the water district board approved Neal's request for an “environmental resource permit” for 3.46 acres of a 40.36-acre site on Perico Island where he wants to build a four-home subdivision for his family. After the approval, Beruff said he was not acting on his friendship with Neal but on a favorable recommendation about Neal's application by the staff of the water management district (commonly called Swiftmud).

Beruff had already sent a letter to the governor giving Wednesday as his last day as a board member

Continued in the Bradenton Herald »

8/27/2015

Peninsular Florida in “cone of uncertainty” for Tropical Storm Ericka

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(WWLP) – Florida and now the Carolinas are potentially in the path of Tropical Storm Erika, which is gaining strength in the Caribbean. Ericka’s track has the storm potentially making landfall on Puerto Rico late Thursday night or early Friday morning, and then continuing northwestward. Tropical Storm watches have now been issued for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, as well as the Bahamas.

There is a chance Erika could substantially weaken, or even break up altogether due to strong wind shear. If Erika holds together, however, she is expected to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane over the warmer waters near the Bahamas.

From there, most of Florida is now within the storm’s “cone of uncertainty,” meaning Erika could make landfall pretty much anywhere on the Florida or Georgia coast on Monday into Tuesday, or turn out to sea and never make landfall at all. Also potentially under threat are North and South Carolina, though long-range forecasts on Erika do not have her having an impact on New England.

Even if Erika doesn’t make landfall, she could still bring very heavy rain to the Southeast coast.

Source: Channel 22 WWLP News »

8/27/2015

Prepare now for tropical storms and hurricanes

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PALATKA – With tropical storm Erika brewing in the Caribbean, now is the time to prepare your home for potential high winds and heavy rain. Following these few simple tips can help protect your property:

  • Remove debris from storm drains and ditches

  • Report clogged ditches to local governments

  • Clean out gutters and extend downspouts at least four feet from structures

  • Build up the ground around the home to promote drainage away from the foundation

The St. Johns River Water Management District's website provides additional tips and easy access to valuable information to assist the public before, during and after severe storm events. The District's web pages (floridaswater.com/storm) include links to flood statements and warnings, river stage and flooding data, and local government emergency contacts. Links to the National Weather Service, Florida Division of Emergency Management and the U.S. Geological Survey's interactive map of current conditions in the state are also available via the website.

Local governments are the primary entities responsible for emergency responses during storms, such as implementing state-of-emergency declarations, evacuations and rescue efforts during flood-related disasters. In the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, the District assists local governments by issuing emergency orders that allow for the pumping of water to alleviate flooding when public health and safety are at risk.

8/25/2015

Webinar on August 27 to provide more details on the Clean Water Rule

A webinar will be held on Thursday, August 27 at 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm EST to provide more details about the final Clean Water Rule. This webinar will provide a review of the final rule, answer some commonly asked questions, and discuss what to expect as the rule is implemented.

In a historic step for the protection of clean water, EPA and the Army signed the Clean Water Rule on May 27, 2015, to protect the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources from pollution and degradation. The final rule is effective August 28, 2015.

Register for the webinar

For more information visit: www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule and http://www.army.mil/asacw.

8/25/2015

Public meetings scheduled to discuss DEP water quality prioritization and assessment efforts

DEP's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration (DEAR) is holding public meetings in several locations throughout the state to discuss DEAR's planned water quality prioritization and assessment efforts. These meetings will take place during two sessions according to the schedule below.

Part I: 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM Priority Waters for Site-Specific TMDL Development

Part II: 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Revised Assessment Lists for the Group 2 (Cycle 3)

These public meetings are to present and request input on the methodology used to prioritize future Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) development for specific waterbodies and water segments throughout the state. Any comments and/or questions on the TMDL and BMAP prioritizations should be directed to Erin Rasnake, Water Quality Evaluation and TMDL Program, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2600 Blair Stone Road, M.S. 3555, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400 or by e-mail: Erin.Rasnake@dep.state.fl.us.

DEAR will also present the revised assessment lists for the Group 2 (Cycle 3) basins, developed pursuant to Chapter 62-303, Florida Administrative Code. The revised assessment lists will be available on the Department's Watershed Assessment website (www.dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/assessment/index.htm) by August 24, 2015, and will be provided upon request to interested parties by mail or via email distribution. Any comments and/or questions on the Revised Assessment Lists should be directed to Kevin O'Donnell, Watershed Assessment Section, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2600 Blair Stone Rd, MS 3560, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400 or by email: Kevin.ODonnell@dep.state.fl.us.

A copy of the agenda may be obtained by contacting: Ms. Linda Quinn-Godwin, Water Quality Evaluation and TMDL Program, MS 3555, Department of Environmental Protection, 2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400 or by calling: (850)245-8449.

Meeting Dates and Times:

DATE AND TIME: August 26, 2015, 10:00 a.m. for St. Lucie - Loxahatchee Basins
PLACE: Martin County Building Department, Building Department Conference Room, 900 Southeast Ruhnke Street, Stuart, Florida

DATE AND TIME: August 27, 2015, 10:00 a.m. for Charlotte Harbor Basin
PLACE: South Florida Water Management District Lower West Coast Service Center, Main Conference Room, 2301 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers, Florida

DATE AND TIME: September 2, 2015, 10:00 a.m. for Tampa Bay Tributaries Basin
PLACE: Florida Department of Environmental Protection Southwest District Office, Main Conference Room, 13051 N. Telecom Parkway, Temple Terrace, Florida

DATE AND TIME: September 3, 2015, 10:00 a.m. for Middle and Lower St. Johns Basins
PLACE: Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art at the Museum of Arts & Sciences, Education Room, 352 South Nova Road, Daytona Beach, Florida

DATE AND TIME: September 10, 2015, 10:00 a.m. for Apalachicola-Chipola Basin
PLACE: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, BMC Conference Room 609, 2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, Florida

8/21/2015

Hydrilla help needed from Florida LAKEWATCHers

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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/jfe/form/SV_8q3CWXe3ScSzNbv

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? »

Contact Information
Dr. Emma N. I. Weeks, Asst. Research Scientist, Entomology & Nematology University of Florida, eniweeks@ufl.edu, Bldg. 970, Natural Area Dr., Gainesville, FL. 32611-0620
phone: (352) 273-3954.
http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/
8/20/2015

Apply now for CHNEP Public Outreach grants and Micro-Grants

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) is a partnership to protect the natural environment of Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs to Winter Haven. The CHNEP offers two types of grants to help others in their efforts to protect the environment and solve issues of concern as identified in CHNEP's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP). The CHNEP is proud to have supported more than 800 projects with grants.

Citizens, organizations, businesses, government agencies, schools, colleges and universities may apply for grants to support projects that occur within the CHNEP study area that includes Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Polk Hardee and DeSoto counties. While all efforts supported by CHNEP with a grant help implement the CCMP, they are varied in their purpose and scope. Additional information about the grant-making process is available at www.CHNEP.org/grants.html and at the link below.

The CHNEP offers Public Outreach Grants once a year, with applications due September 2. The maximum grant request is $5,000 but most applications are funded in the $2,500 to $3,000 range. Review the guidance document to learn more and to obtain the two one-page forms that must be part of each application.

The CHNEP offers Micro-Grants throughout the year for projects that can begin after October 1 and concluded by August 31. Most grant requests are up to $250 but a few requests for more support have been approved. Applications are considered when they are received. Awards are made until funds for the year have all been obligated. The project must be completed so that a final report and invoice are received by CHNEP no later than August 31, 2016. Applicants are reimbursed funds once a final report and an invoice for work accomplished are accepted.

The CHNEP also offers grant-writing and administration assistance for projects that help protect and restore our estuaries and watersheds. Contact Liz Donley (LDonley@chnep.org) to discuss possible assistance.

Thank you for your efforts to protect the natural environment of southwest Florida.

Photo by Melissa Nell, Manatee County Natural Resources Department

Grant information and Mini-Grant Application »

Contact Information
Maran Hilgendorf, Communications Manager, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, maran@chnep.org, 326 West Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda, FL. 33950
phone: (941) 575-3374.
http://www.chnep.org/
8/18/2015

DEP accepting comments on water reclamation/reuse study; meeting and webinar Aug. 20th

Senate Bill 536, which passed in the 2014 legislative session, requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), in coordination with stakeholders to conduct a comprehensive study and submit a report on the expansion of use of reclaimed water, storm water, and excess surface water in the state. The report is due to the Legislature on Dec. 1, 2015.

Below is information about the draft study report and upcoming meetings/webinar where DEP will present the draft study report and receive public comment.

The draft study report is available for review on the DEP SB536 Study web page, http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/reuse/study.htm.

FDEP will accept written comments on the draft report until Sept. 18, 2015. Comments may be emailed to sb536study@dep.state.fl.us or mailed to:

Janet Llewellyn
Office of Water Policy
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
3900 Commonwealth Blvd.
Mail Station #46
Tallahassee, FL 32399

FDEP will hold a statewide meeting/webinar to present the draft study report and receive public comment. The meeting will be held on Aug. 20, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. in Conference Room A of the Douglas Building at 3900 Commonwealth Blvd. in Tallahassee. The meeting will be available as a webinar for those who do not wish to travel to Tallahassee. Click here to register online. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

A second opportunity to provide in-person input will be available on Aug. 25 at 1 p.m. at the St. Johns River Water Management District office at 601 South Lake Destiny Road, Suite 200, Maitland, FL. FDEP will present the same information at this meeting that was presented at the Aug. 20 meeting.

DEP Water Reuse Study »

8/18/2015

Register now for CHNEP Retreat on Friday, Sept. 11th

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) invites everyone with an interest in driving actions that protect the natural environment of southwest Florida to participate in a retreat to help plan the future of the program. Attendees are asked to please register online and complete a one-question survey: www.EventBrite.com.

The retreat will be an opportunity to discuss how to implement CHNEP's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, changes that should be made to the current plan, and to identify qualities required of the next CHNEP director. (Current director Lisa Beever will be retiring in October, 2016.) The Charlotte Harbor Events and Conference Center has been reserved for September 11, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. NOAA Certified Professional Facilitator Ann Weaver has agreed to assist.

By characterizing the direction that the Management Conference wants to take the CHNEP, a better consideration of CHNEP director candidates can take place, as well as overall staff workload commitments. The workshop result should be a characterization of CHNEP's existing roles (what makes us great?), all potential future roles (where could we go?), primary future roles (where will we go?), and what are the most practical ways to get there related to current and potential staff capacity.

CHNEP invites everyone with an interest in guiding its future activities to participate in the retreat, and to invite others who may have an interest in participating.

Thank you for helping to protect the natural environment of southwest Florida!

8/17/2015

Flooding plagues construction on Peace River Trail


By Suzie Schottelkotte

FORT MEADE – For Nathan Kautz, there have been days recently when he’s felt more like they’re building a fishing pier than a hiking trail.

“The rain has been pretty bad,” Kautz, who’s overseeing construction of the Peace River Trail in Fort Meade for the state Department of Transportation, said Tuesday while surveying the trail’s progress.

“In some of these areas, we’re still waiting for the water to recede before we can go back in and finish the job," he said.

“Luckily, it hasn’t held us up too much, though,” he said. “When water forces us to leave one place, we just go to another area and work there.”

Crews have completed a 72-foot wooden foot bridge spanning the Peace River, but they can’t finish building the trail, made of compacted coquina shells, because the approaches on both sides of the bridge are flooded.

But the water is showing signs of receding.

Continued in The Ledger »

8/17/2015

Polk water summit 1st step in forming countywide municipal cooperative


By Tom Palmer

HAINES CITY – Forming a countywide municipal water cooperative could avoid the mistakes officials in other parts of Florida have made and provide adequate water for everyone, a crowd of elected officials was told Monday during Polk County’s first- ever water summit.

“We have the power to control our future,” said Paul Senft, a Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board member from Haines City.

The meeting at Lake Eva Banquet Hall, which attracted more than 150 people, was organized as a kickoff to the formation of the cooperative. Creation of that organization, which is scheduled to be completed by next year, will qualify Polk County for millions of dollars in aid from Swiftmud to develop alternative water supplies.

Alternative water supplies are needed because the traditional source — the Floridan Aquifer — is close to reaching its sustainable limit.

The first step will be to form a committee composed of representatives from every city and town to come up with the details on how the cooperative will function and to come up with an interlocal agreement that will be subject to approval by elected officials.

Continued in The Ledger »

8/17/2015

SJRWMD approves $25 million for cooperative funding projects

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PALATKA – The St. Johns River Water Management District's Governing Board on Aug. 11 approved $25 million in cooperative funding for 50 local projects that when leveraged with local partners' funding represents more than $98 million in total project investment.

These projects will conserve more than 1.7 million gallons of water a day (mgd), develop more than 56 mgd of alternative water supplies, reduce total nitrogen loading to waterways and springs by nearly 540,000 pounds per year and reduce total phosphorus loading by more than 113,000 pounds per year.

"Through this program, we are partnering with public and private entities on projects that will significantly help local communities conserve water, develop alternative water supplies, or improve surface water quality," said Board Chairman John Miklos of Orlando. "These projects are shovel-ready, so construction can get under way quickly."

Projects include reclaimed water projects, storm water or surface water treatment and enhancement projects, wastewater treatment plant upgrades, alternative water supply development and water conservation enhancements.

Project applications were ranked on the overall quality of the application, support of core mission areas, District priorities, potential for success and problem solving, and cost effectiveness. The projects address one or more of the District's strategic priorities, including springs protection and water quality protection in the Indian River Lagoon, Northern Coastal Basins, and middle and lower St. Johns River basins.

The Board also directed staff to initiate a second round of solicitations to generate proposed projects for an additional $5 million. The additional funding will be specifically for innovative projects and projects in Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) communities.

Click here for a list of the projects »

8/7/2015

New insights on hurricane intensity, pollution transport


Researchers study currents that fuel hurricanes and transport pollutants to coastal beaches

As tropical storm Isaac was gaining momentum toward the Mississippi River in August 2012, researchers were dropping instruments from the sky above to study the ocean conditions beneath the storm. The newly published study showed how a downwelling of warm waters deepened the storm's fuel tank for a rapid intensification toward hurricane status. The results also revealed how hurricane-generated currents and ocean eddies can transport oil and other pollutants to coastal regions.

Continued... »

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