Water-Related News

SCOTUS sinks Clean Water Act protection for 51% of U.S. waters

'Wetlands that are separate from traditional navigable waters cannot be considered part of those waters.'

A Supreme Court ruling that on its face just allows an Idaho couple to build a home near a lake goes in fact much further than that, eliminating Clean Water Act (CWA) coverage to 51% of previously protected U.S. wetlands.

“Wetlands that are separate from traditional navigable waters cannot be considered part of those waters, even if they are located nearby,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

“In addition, it would be odd indeed if Congress had tucked an important expansion to the reach of the CWA into convoluted language in a relatively obscure provision concerning state permitting programs.”

In this case, a road bisects the wetlands in question, and the house was going in on the part of the wetlands cut off from the rest. The Court ruled that the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction ended at the road. The water has to be visible and contiguous to be covered by the law.

Legislature passes funding bills for two Tampa Bay Water projects

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Two Tampa Bay Water projects were included in the State of Florida’s 2023/2024 budget that passed the Florida Legislature the first week of May. Pending the Governor’s signature, Tampa Bay Water will receive $2.5 million for the Morris Bridge Wellfield Improvements project and $1 million toward the expansion of the regional surface water treatment facility.

Funding for the Morris Bridge Wellfield Improvements project will maintain Morris Bridge Wellfield’s existing level of service and increase reliability through the replacement of aging pumps, motors, electrical components and instrumentation. Tampa Bay Water also expects to reduce operation and maintenance costs with these new, efficient pumps and motors.

Funding for the Tampa Bay Water Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant project will be used to retain an engineering firm to develop a basis of design report for the expansion of this important regional facility. The project aims to increase Tampa Bay Water's annual average yield of existing surface water supply to the region by 10-12.5 million gallons of water per day (mgd).

“We thank Rep. McClure and Sens. Hooper and Collins for championing these infrastructure projects that will ensure the Tampa Bay region continues to have access to a safe, high quality drinking water supply for generations to come,” said Chuck Carden, Tampa Bay Water general manager.

Water management districts want visitors to enjoy Florida’s springs and rivers responsibly

Here are some reminders to take special care if you're planning to enjoy Florida's nature this weekend.

Before Memorial Day Weekend and the unofficial start of summer, Florida’s water management districts want to remind visitors to springs and rivers to leave no litter and protect nature.

Troy Roberts with the Suwannee River Water Management District said trash takes away from an area’s natural beauty. It is also harmful to plants, animals, and water quality.

“Make sure you’re taking your trash back with you,” Roberts said. “Take care of these natural wonders that we have like you would your own house.”

Roberts added it is also important to protect submerged aquatic vegetation or seagrass, which provides food and habitat, and can serve as an indicator of the health of a system.

“When people are out swimming or floating, they need to stay close to the surface of the water and they’re not trampling the vegetation,” he said. “Walking on it can uproot it, can damage it. Even walking in the sandy areas can prevent new growth in those areas.”

Vivianna Bendixson with the Southwest Florida Water Management District echoed that advice.

“We want boaters and kayakers to enjoy their time on the river, but we want them to do it while reducing their impact to the river,” she said.

Bendixson added that boaters should not moor along the river’s shore, because that contributes to shoreline erosion and the degradation of the system’s overall health.

Water management districts will promote being good stewards of the environment on social media and at their sites throughout the summer when springs see more visitors.

Hillsborough County Health Dept. issues Blue-Green Algae Bloom Alert for Lake George-North

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TAMPA – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins at Lake George—North. This is in response to a water sample taken on 5/18/2023. The public should exercise caution in and around the Park Lake Drive area of Lake George—North.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water. Throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.
For water quality updates, visit the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard.

How big of an area was impacted by Piney Point?

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From Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Director Dave Tomasko:

Successful resource management efforts have to be grounded in solid science. Both in Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay, we have the privilege of working with talented individuals doing great science. The paper linked here is an example of this type of management-relevant science.

Our colleagues at the University of Florida (UF) and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP), led by UF’s Dr. Elise Morrison, used a variety of tracers and water quality parameters to track the duration and spatial extent of impacts from the discharges of industrial wastewater from Piney Point. Of particular interest is the nitrogen isotope work. The ratio between two isotopes of nitrogen (N-15 and N-14) has been used for decades to distinguish between nitrogen loads from wastewater vs. nitrogen loads from "fertilizer".

Well, the industrial wastewater that was released from Piney Point not only had excessively high values of nitrogen (over 200 mg/L, more than 10 times as concentrated as what came into our waterways from the Bee Ridge Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) overflows) but it also had an isotopic signature that was extremely unique. This wasn't "fertilizer". It was a pool of 200 million gallons of fertilizer that had been processed by the algal blooms that had been feeding off that fertilizer for more than 20 years. As a result, the isotopic signature of the discharges gave rise to a value that had not previously been recorded in our local waters. This unique signature thus acted as a "tracer" of the spatial distribution of the plume.

So how far away was this isotopic signature found? More than 40 miles away, up close to Tarpon Springs. It was found in the “reference site” that I proposed to UF researchers – a location far enough away from Tampa Bay that it was thought it would be isolated from the impacts that were anticipated in Tampa and Sarasota Bays.

Red tide appears to be gone from area beaches

Red tide has been a scourge of the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Ian struck Collier and Lee counties last year. It has finally dissipated from much of the area.

Red tide appears to be gone from the region for the first time in months.

An update from state environmental officials Wednesday showed red tide was either not present or only found in background levels throughout the Tampa Bay and Sarasota/Manatee coastlines.

Red tide was found in low concentrations just south of Sarasota County, in Charlotte County.

Still, some reports of fish kills and respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide were reported over the past week in Sarasota County.

For additional information about red tide, including information on how to report a fish kill or other wildlife effects, consult health authorities about human exposure, or locate other resources, visit the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Red Tide-Related Hotlines and Information Sources article.

Water Atlas Recreational Water Quality Map »

Red tide? Seaweed blob? Nope, scientists are watching a different algae off Tampa Bay

Researchers call it ‘sea sawdust,’ and it has a friendly relationship with the organism that causes red tide. It’s likely offshore of every county from Pinellas to Collier.

Florida researchers are watching an algae bloom drifting offshore of the Tampa Bay area — and no, it’s not red tide or a looming blob of seaweed.

Scientists are monitoring a patchy cloud of “sea sawdust” that has ebbed and flowed in the Gulf of Mexico for nearly a week, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The blue-green algae species, known as Trichodesmium, is often found in tropical waters and blooms off Southwest Florida.

The good news: It’s not known to be toxic. The bad news: It leaves behind nitrogen that can feed red tide.

Sea sawdust earns its nickname from the opaque, brownish hue it reflects as it gathers on the sea surface, according to Kate Hubbard, the director of the state’s Center for Red Tide Research. From above, thick blooms can resemble oil slicks.

“It really stands out,” Hubbard said in an interview. “When you’re on the water, it pops out as something that looks different than really any other type of algae.”

Sign up now for the 2023 Florida Waters Stewardship Program

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The deadline to sign up is July 26th.

To make a difference concerning the issues surrounding water quality and quantity in our communities, we must understand the various ways in which we interact with water. As Floridians, we are connected to our oceans and bays by our faucets and laundries, to our neighborhood ponds and lakes by our yards and streets, and to our regional and statewide neighbors by our surface and groundwater supplies.

This program will use expert presentations, online explorations, experiential learning, field experience in watershed science, and communication skills training to foster a greater understanding of these interactions and provide the tools necessary to become stewards of our water resources.

During this seven-session course, participants will travel to locations across Pinellas County to explore the natural beauty, learn about emerging water issues, and meet with local experts.

Participants will also plan and implement an individual (or group) stewardship project that makes a difference in the community, attend a relevant stakeholder meeting and explore online resources to learn more about water between class sessions.

Each class session will be three hours long and include Working with Water instructor-led presentations looking at water at the state-level as well as Working with People instructor-led presentations highlighting communication best-practices. Classes will also include time for discussions, guest speaker presentations highlighting local water resources, and a field tour.

  • This course has limited seating/availability. Register early to reserve your spot. Youth (under 18) are eligible to register as long as an accompanying adult is also registered for the program.
  • The cost of the program is $125. If the cost of the program will prevent you from participating, please complete a scholarship application (at link below). Application deadline is Wednesday, July 23rd.

Classes begin on August 9 and end on October 18th. Detailed schedule and other information is at the link below.

Tampa Bay fertilizer bans go into effect June 1st

TAMPA – Fertilizer bans go into effect for parts of the Tampa Bay area on June 1.

This prevents the use of any fertilizer containing phosphorous or nitrogen in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota Counties from June 1 through September 30.

There are differences and exemptions of the ban and the free UF IFAS application is useful when looking at specific neighborhoods.

The ban is in effect during the rainy season because a summer thunderstorm can dump several inches of water, leading to a significant amount of water running off into drains into lakes, reservoirs and our bay waters.

Any excess fertilizer gets washed away and into these water bodies, which leads to reduced water quality.

Excess phosphorous and nitrogen lead to algae growth. An abundance of algae blocks sunlight from reaching the bottom of those water bodies and therefore fewer plants and sea grass. Fewer plants leads to lower oxygen levels which eventually lead to fish kills.

The 2022 Tampa Bay seagrass survey showed just 30,000 acres of seagrass. That’s 10,000 acres below the goal. It also marked the third consecutive survey period showing a decline after hitting a high of 40,000 acres.

Fertilizers containing phosphorous and nitrogen can still be used until June 1st. However, extra caution should be taken not to apply it to impervious surfaces, when it is raining or more than two inches are expected within the next 36 hours, and not within 10 feet of any body of water.

Caution should be used when dealing with lawn clippings as well to make sure they are not put down any drains.

If the fertilizer does have nitrogen, it must be a least 50% controlled release or slow release. Phosphorous should not be used at all, ever, unless a soil analysis done by a qualified lab shows there is a phosphorous deficiency in the soil.

If you use a fertilizer spreader, it must have a deflector shield on it to better control where fertilizer is spread.

Tampa Bypass Canal System in place to prevent flooding, divert water during hurricanes

TAMPA – Hurricane season is just two weeks away. There is a system in place to protect Tampa Bay residents along the Hillsborough River from flooding by diverting water.

Hurricane Irma plowed through Florida’s west coast, bringing heaving rain and devastating flooding. During Irma, the Southwest Florida Water Management District said the Tampa Bypass Canal helped move three billion gallons of floodwater out of the Bay area.

The bypass canal runs parallel to the Hillsborough River for 15.7 miles. It’s made up of five flood control structures, allowing the district to manage the water flow. This system consists of the Hillsborough Flood Detention Reservoir, the Tampa Bypass Canal and the Harney Canal.

“During a heavy rain event, like a hurricane, the district is able to close the gates on the structure cutting off the river, preventing the flood waters from entering the cities of Tampa and Temple Terrace,” Operations Bureau Chief Jerry Mallams said.

The reservoir is 16,000 acres and is located northeast of Tampa and Temple Terrace. There is a 6.5-mile-long earthen dam associated with the reservoir. Mallams said when floodwater begins to fill up the reservoir, his team can use the system to divert and release the water into McKay Bay.

Hillsborough County cracks down on water violators

TAMPA – All water users in unincorporated Hillsborough County are subject to the year-round outdoor lawn watering restrictions, but code enforcement officers are cracking down on violators a bit harder in May when they typically see the most water-using due to the dry season.

Code enforcement officers typically ride around neighborhoods from early in the morning until sunrise, take down the violator's address, snap a photo for evidence, and later send a warning or violation notice to that property.

Typically, this time of year, officers say they'll find as many as 20 to 30 violations each before the sun even comes up, but sometimes those numbers are lower.

"We typically start off with a warning, and then from there it escalates up to $500 in $100 increments," said Hillsborough Code Enforcement Officer Jon-Paul Lavendeira. "Usually, people don't get to that point, they tend to wise up a bit on the warning offenses because this isn't a money-making operation. It's more or less for educating the community."

Bathroom to Bay: How old toilets are being transformed into a sea life habitat in Tampa Bay

TIERRA VERDE – As one of the most popular tourist destinations, Tampa Bay has an abundance of hotels and other properties. As those properties are updated over time, replaceable items like old toilets are sent to landfills. Tampa Bay Watch and Tampa Bay Water are exploring ways to find more sustainable solutions for the toilets.

"They build oyster reef balls out of concrete which helps to support the growth of oysters throughout the Tampa Bay area," said Amelia Brown with Tampa Bay Water as she explained the work done at Tampa Bay Watch. Both agencies have teamed up to help reduce waste. They're taking old replaceable toilets and - rather than sending them to landfills – they're recycling them into habitats for sea life.

"We crush old, water-guzzling toilets into little pieces and mixed it into the concrete mixture that was used to make the oyster reef balls."

Organizers say 85% of oyster habitat has been lost in the Tampa Bay area due to human activities. Amelia Brown, who helped spearhead the pilot program says it's a great way to replace your toilet and save water."Toilets that are from 1993 or earlier use 3.5 gallons or more per flush. But new, high efficiency water sense certified toilets use only 1.82 gallons per flush." That's a 60% reduction in water use per flush.

But she didn't want to create one environmental problem while solving another.

Florida environment groups, businesses urge DeSantis to veto ‘attack’ on fertilizer bans

A DeSantis veto would save important measures to curb urban pollution, the groups urged.

Dozens of Florida businesses and environmental organizations are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a budget item that could curtail local fertilizer ordinances and stymie future water quality efforts.

A coalition of 55 groups from across the Sunshine State, including Alachua County commissioners, wrote a letter to DeSantis late last week urging he use a line-item veto to slash a proposed $250,000 appropriation for University of Florida researchers to study the impact of preempting local fertilizer regulations for the next year.

A local fertilizer ordinance — like the one Pinellas County initiates from June through September — aims to prevent polluted, nutrient-heavy water from flowing off lawns and parks during Florida’s rainy season. That runoff can fuel toxic blue-green algae and red tide blooms that plague Florida’s cherished coastlines and cost the state millions in missed tourism dollars.

More than 100 municipalities across Florida, including more than 20 local governments in Pinellas, have used rainy season fertilizer bans as a tool to prevent souring the state’s waters.

Hillsborough County residents: Keep water clean, help curb red tide by following fertilizer rules

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Fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous may not be applied on turfgrass or landscape plants from June 1-Sept. 30 in Hillsborough County

From June 1 through Sept. 30, it is against the law to use fertilizer that contains nitrogen and/or phosphorus. Hillsborough County's rules on the use of fertilizers containing these nutrients are intended to protect and preserve the cleanliness of local streams, rivers, lakes, and bays. Protecting the county's water reduces the chances of severe algae blooms, such as red tide, from forming. This, in turn, benefits the health of the area's wildlife and residents.

Nitrogen and phosphorous-based fertilizer and red tide

The issues caused by nitrogen and phosphorus-based fertilizers may worsen during summer months when West-Central Florida receives much of its rainfall. It's during this season that deluges of fertilizer-rich water can enter the county's waterways through stormwater and irrigation runoff. This is especially problematic where there are no shoreline plants to consume nutrients.

Excessive algae growth, sometimes in the form of red tide, can occur when certain types of fertilizer mixes with bodies of water. The resulting algae blooms in the water can block sunlight needed for seagrass and other desirable aquatic plants to grow. When aquatic plant growth is reduced, oxygen levels decrease. Lower oxygen levels as well as toxins contained in some algae can cause fish kills.

Large and out-of-control algae blooms can also be harmful to other aquatic animals, including manatees and dolphins. For instance, the neurotoxin produced by red tide can cause manatees to have seizure-like symptoms when inhaled. In severe cases, the animals drown as a result. Furthermore, red tide can induce coughing and sneezing in dolphins, which is similar to the irritation it causes in humans.

TBRPC now accepting applications for FY24 Stormwater Education Funding

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The application deadline is July 13th; applicants must present their proposals on July 18th

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is now accepting applications for the FY2024 Stormwater Outreach and Education Funding opportunity. With financial support from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), this program aims to further public involvement, education, and outreach efforts to improve the quality of stormwater runoff in the Tampa Bay Region. Projects develop and implement creative stormwater outreach initiatives and a variety of educational materials to garner public support and stewardship.

This year’s program funding totals $90,000 with individual award ceilings set at $15,000. Review the Fy2024 Notice of Funding here. Complete project applications must be submitted electronically to alana@tbrpc.org by 5pm on July 13, 2023. Applicants will also be required to present their proposals to the Stormwater Public Education and Outreach Committee on July 18, 2023 at 9:30 AM. The awards will be announced in August, 2023.

Visit the Stormwater funding webpage for more details and to download the application.

Tampa Bay leaders talk resiliency strategies as hurricane season approaches

With the start of the Atlantic hurricane season looming June 1st, leaders from across the Tampa Bay region gathered for a two-day conference on resiliency strategies to respond to climate change and sea-level rise.

As the 2023 season nears, the destruction Hurricane Ian wreaked across Southwest Florida last year was a point of concern running through the third annual Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Leadership Summit, which the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council put on May 4th and 5th at the Hilton Clearwater Beach. Originally forecast to hit Tampa Bay, Ian made landfall as a category 4 in Southwest Florida, causing nearly $113 billion in property damage and taking the lives of 66 people.

Federal and state funding flowing to Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay region is part of a $4.9 million oyster reef habitat restoration project that will stretch along the west coast of Florida to Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. Through it, oyster shells will be collected from restaurants, recycled and put back into the water at oyster reef restoration sites, protecting shorelines and improving water quality.

Another $2.25 million will go toward a Pinellas County government project in partnership with Keep Pinellas Beautiful and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to remove more than 200,000 tires from Tampa Bay and the Gulf that were placed in the water from the 1960s to 1980s as artificial reefs.

A Tampa-area resiliency summit explores ways for cities to deal with climate change

Expected higher seas and more intense storms could arrive in the coming years and have severe impacts on coastal communities.

"Resiliency" has become a keyword for many city officials, as climate change threatens communities with rising seas, more intense storms and hotter weather.

A two-day symposium being held through Friday by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is looking at ways to help plan for the future.

Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski of Dunedin spoke on a panel on how coastal communities especially, will be affected.

"It is the preservation and protection, but also efficient use of our natural resources, our human resources and our financial resources," Bujalski said. "It's not just about the land or the water or sea level rise. It's really how we approach government operations — and acting as a human."

Lawmakers give green light to seagrass technology innovation bill

In eight years, 2011-2019, Florida lost around 58% of existing seagrasses.

The House substituted a Senate bill for their efforts and will now send to the Governor a plan to discover and fund new technologies to combat seagrass depletion.

SB 724 would establish a Seagrass Restoration Technology Development Initiative within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The initiative would involve a partnership between DEP, Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of Florida (UF), and establish the Initiative Technology Advisory Council as part of the plan.

“Unfortunately, seagrasses along both coasts, most notably the Indian River Lagoon and Florida Bay, are rapidly being lost,” Bradenton Republican Rep. Will Robinson said during the bill’s second reading.

“This bill allows a focused and applied science-based statewide strategic restoration initiative to address the diminishing seagrass habitat and diversity.”

There were no questions and no debate as the House passed the bill on third reading.

Florida Legislature moves to block fertilizer bans

Conservation groups and some state lawmakers are warning that the Florida Legislature's recent move to block seasonal fertilizer bans could hamper local efforts to improve water quality.

Why it matters: The state's waterbodies are already grappling with red tide, a toxic algae bloom known to devastate marine life and repel tourists.

  • Fertilizer runoff is a top contributor to nutrient pollution which stimulates algae, exacerbating blooms and depleting seagrass.

Driving the news: Florida lawmakers tucked a provision into the state budget proposal last weekend that would prevent local officials from banning fertilizers.

Between the lines: The provision, if enacted, only affects counties that haven't imposed a fertilizer restriction yet. It wouldn't impact local officials' ability to enforce existing ordinances that rein in fertilizer use.

  • Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee counties, for instance, all have seasonal bans in place. But county officials couldn't amend those ordinances under the proposal.
  • Maya Burke of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program said the restrictions have helped reduce pollution without placing a fiscal burden on counties.

Of note: The prohibition on fertilizer bans would last until the end of the 2023-24 budget year.

  • The Legislature also proposed earmarking about $6 million of the budget for University of Florida researchers to examine the impact of preventing new fertilizer bans.

Zoom out: Florida ranked first in the nation for total acres of lakes deemed too polluted for swimming and aquatic life, according to the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.

  • When looking at polluted estuaries, the state ranked fourth.

What they're saying: "Florida's fertilizer ordinances are a proven and necessary pollution-prevention strategy," state Rep. Lindsay Cross (D-St. Petersburg) said. "This sneak attack will hamstring local communities that have recognized that fertilizer ordinances are cost-effective and work."

Drones offer more efficient way to survey vital oyster reefs

Skimming 100 feet above the Gulf waters at 13 miles per hour and blasting out 700,000 laser pulses every second, a drone flies over this oyster reef off the Big Bend coast of western Florida in early 2021. A few minutes later, the drone lands on shore and, with a little computer magic back at the lab, spits out what the drone operators want to know: How are these reefs doing?

Oyster reefs across the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the U.S.—vital providers of food, jobs, habitat, shore protection and water purification—are facing steep declines from overharvesting and environmental stressors. But spotting which reefs are at risk of collapse in time to intervene using conventional methods can be labor intensive and impractical.

Enter the drone.

"In the time it takes a person to measure just one or two square meters of reef, you can survey the entire reef structure with a drone," said Michael Espriella, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida.

New research by Espriella and his UF colleagues shows that the digital elevation map produced by drone-based lidar—which pushes out rapid laser pulses that can measure distance—can accurately determine the condition of an oyster reef with much less time and labor than old-fashioned manual surveys.

Tampa making historic investments to improve wastewater infrastructure

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As part of Tampa’s ambitious drive to strengthen Tampa’s resiliency and upgrade critical infrastructure, the city’s Wastewater Department is overhauling several pumping stations, its collection system of sewer mainlines and pipes, and beginning the 10-year Master Plan to upgrade the Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant (AWTP).

These projects are part of Mayor Jane Castor’s historic PIPES (Progressive Infrastructure Planning to Ensure Stability) program.

Today, Mayor Castor and Wastewater Director, Eric Weiss, will discuss these projects with the media at the Krause Street Pumping Station.

“Tampa is a growing, waterfront city facing serious threats of climate change and volatile weather, and much of our infrastructure is long overdue for replacement or upgrades,” Mayor Jane Castor said. “These wastewater projects are critical to making our booming community more resilient and sustainable.”

Wastewater Director Eric Weiss noted his department’s outstanding bond rating has helped Tampa get more bang for the buck through low-interest bonds financing these projects.

Currently underway at the Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant is Phase One of the Master Plan Improvements, which includes $32 million in funding for:

  • Construction of a new sludge dewatering facility. This facility will be fully operational later this year. The new facility will reduce the weight of the sludge that is hauled away to FDP approved land application sites. The hauling fees are based upon the weight of the sludge per ton. Less water to haul = less cost to taxpayers.
  • The purchase of a standby power generator to provide a sustainable and reliable electrical supply at the AWTP during power outages.
  • The installation of two 30,000-gallon onsite fuel storage tanks to increase the amount of fuel storage to five days. Currently, the treatment plant has two days of diesel fuel storage in the event of a hurricane or power outage.

Tampa City Council recently approved a $77 million construction project to upgrade the treatment plant’s secondary treatment process. This project will update pumping equipment and technology and includes raising the existing electrical equipment to 13’ above sea level.

Other projects underway include:

  • Krause Street Pumping Station – installation of standby power generator
  • Harbour Island Force Main Replacement Project
  • Replacement/rehabilitation of the wastewater collection systems in Forest Hills, MacFarlane Park, East Tampa and Virginia Park
  • Bayshore Pumping Station Rehabilitation – a design build project that is projected to begin June 2024. This project will include replacement of pumps, piping, valves and electrical improvements to ensure continued reliability of the station.

University of Tampa researcher says algae in Tampa Bay could guide seagrass restoration

ST. PETERSBURG — A researcher at the University of Tampa says a certain kind of algae could help guide efforts to restore sea grass in Tampa Bay.

According to the South West Florida Water Management District, Tampa Bay is losing sea grass at an alarming rate, with a 12 percent decline over the past two years. That’s more than 4,000 affected acres. Most of the decline can be found in Old Tampa Bay, which is where University of Tampa associate professor Michael Middlebrooks is focusing his study of an algae called caulerpa.

Caulerpa shares similar qualities with sea grass and is thriving in some parts of the bay. With the help of his research team, Middlebrooks is collecting samples of caulerpa and examining what marine life are living on it.

“We’ll compare that to samples we’ve taken of sea grass to see if the communities of animals living on them are similar or equivalent,” Middlebrooks said.

If they are, Middlebrooks said it will help guide sea grass restoration efforts. The parts of the bay with abundant caulerpa can be left alone longer, while areas without it are prioritized.

“This gives us maybe a little more time to see what’s gone wrong and cause the decline of sea grass in Tampa Bay,” Middlebrooks said. “We know that we can fix this, we’ve done it before. But our opportunities to do it quickly and easily are short.”

Funding for the research project is through a grant from the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund. It’s set to take three years to complete, with a second phase of tracking sea grass and caulerpa growth rates set to begin this summer.

Sea turtle nesting season starts May 1; Property owners urged to make sure lighting is ready

Sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1 through October 31, and early nesting activity has already been reported in Southwest Florida on Casey Key in Venice and Captiva Island in Lee County.

It’s time now to remind all property owners about the lighting that is required to help protect turtles and hatchlings during nesting season. Conventional lighting scares females from nesting and disorients hatchlings away from the Gulf, leading to exhaustion, dehydration, and death from falling into storm drains, passing cars, and predators.

Long wavelength amber bulbs in downward directed fixtures that shield the bulb from the beach are encouraged everywhere on the island, not just beachfront, because so many structures and vegetation that previously shielded light from the beach are gone due to Hurricane Ian. Besides lighting, it is also just as important to draw curtains closed at night.

Fort Myers Beach has adopted new sea turtle conservation rules as of 2022 when it comes to windows and glass slider doors. Windows and doors/sliders are required to have a light transmittance of 45% or less AND have a window cover installed. Read the Sea Turtle Conservation Ordinance.

Long wavelength amber bulbs can also be found online. Search for “sea turtle amber LED” and the bulb type that you need. It’s important to verify that the spectrum specifications of the bulb indicate 560 nm or greater.

One of the cheapest Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission certified wildlife lighting options that staff have found online is the FEIT A19 Red Bulb that screws into classic Edison fixtures. Please note, filter wraps, gels, and colored party bulbs are not compliant because sea turtles are sensitive to their light.