Water-Related News

Adopt-a-Lake Calendar features seaplane on Lake Dora as cover photo

TAVARES – The public cast more than 1,500 votes in an online contest, choosing the top 14 photos to be featured in Lake County’s 2018 Adopt-a-Lake Calendar. The top-scoring picture — a seaplane landing on Lake Dora taken by Marsha Gandy — will grace the calendar’s front cover.

The runner-up photos are included in a special section on the back of the calendar.

Residents and visitors submitted nearly 200 photos of Lake County waterbodies to the 2018 Adopt-a-Lake photo contest. A committee narrowed those down to 30, and they were then placed in an online gallery for voting.

The Adopt-a-Lake calendars are available for a suggested donation of $5 at the following Tavares locations: the Lake County Water Lab at 12923 County Landfill Road, the Solid Waste Administration Office at 13130 County Landfill Road and the Lake County Administration building at 315 W. Main St.

Calendars may also be ordered by mailing a check to: Adopt-a-Lake Program, P.O. Box 7800, Tavares, FL 32778. If requesting a calendar by mail, an additional $1 should be included for postage and handling.

The Lake County Adopt-a-Lake Program encourages local civic organizations, individuals and fraternal and business groups to adopt a segment of a lake’s shoreline. The program is comprised of three separate components: Water-quality monitoring, public education and pollution prevention. Volunteers can select which aspects of the program best fit their level of interest.

For more information about Lake County’s Adopt-a-Lake Program, the calendar, or to become a volunteer, contact Cathie Catasus at 352-253-1659 or ccatasus@lakecountyfl.gov.

Learn about crowdsourcing water level data at Dec. 19th webinar

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with the University of North Carolina, Institute of Marine Sciences, has developed a water level reporting application. The application collects and aggregates reports of observed water levels submitted through citizen scientists. These contributions are photographs with locations and a few simple details that will help weather predictors, scientists, and the public to better visualize and understand changing water levels. This application can be used globally to document high water levels at the coast, such as king tide events, but also far inland, such as snow melt or heavy rainfall events.

Various state and federal partners are currently using water level reports and photographs as communication and model validation tools. Explore the web-based application: What’s your water level? Or log a report from your mobile device.​

Date: Tuesday – December 19, 2017
Time: 12:00 – 1:00 PM ET

About the Presenter

Christine Buckel has been a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science since 2001. She is an ecologist and examines geospatial relationships of species and habitats in the marine environment. Most recently she has been examining these relationships and human interactions under future conditions with sea level rise. She has degrees from University of Nebraska (BS) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (MS).

The webinar is being sponsored by the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA).

Reserve your spot »

Help save a billion gallons of water: Skip a week of lawn irrigation

The St. Johns River Water Management District is encouraging homeowners in its 18-county region to “Skip a Week” of lawn and landscape irrigation during the cooler months of December, January and February.

“Skipping a week of irrigation when your yard doesn’t need it keeps lawns healthy and helps to conserve drinking water supplies — if homeowners who irrigate skipped every other week of watering this winter, north and east-central Florida could save more than 1 billion gallons of water,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle.

During the cooler months, weekly irrigation isn’t always needed. In fact, research shows ½ to ¾ inches of water per irrigation zone every 10–14 days is sufficient.

Overwatering makes lawns less able to survive Florida’s inevitable droughts and encourages pests, disease and root rot. Using less water encourages deeper grass and plant roots, which makes them more drought-tolerant and less susceptible to pests and disease.

Skipping a week is as simple as manually turning off your irrigation system.

To make sure your yard stays healthy, turn on your irrigation system if you see signs your grass needs water. Signs include:

  • Grass blades are folded in half;
  • Grass blades are blue-gray; or
  • Grass blades do not spring back; footprints remain visible on your lawn for several minutes after walking on it.
If you see signs your lawn is wilting and decide to irrigate, the University of Florida recommends an average of ½ to ¾ inches of water per application. Saturating the root zone and then letting the soil dry encourages healthy, deep root growth.

Additional research about efficient irrigation and other landscaping topics can be found at fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/ifaspubs.htm, which is part of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension website.

To learn more about the district’s “Skip a Week” message, visit sjrwmd.com/SkipAWeek.

DEP secretary rejects judge's recommendation, denies Everglades oil drilling permit

A state agency chief on Monday issued an order denying a permit for oil drilling in western Broward County, despite an administrative law judge's recommendation that the permit be issued.

Judge Gary Early in October said evidence from a hearing in May showed the risk to the Everglades and regional water supplies from oil drilling was insignificant. He recommended the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reverse itself and issue a permit to the Kanter family for an exploratory well west of Miramar.

But DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein wrote Monday that his department had not issued a permit for oil and gas exploration in the Everglades since 1967. And he noted the Legislature, in adopting the Everglades Forever Act in 1991, designated the drilling site as being within the boundaries of Everglades restoration.

"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is committed to protecting Florida’s one-of-a-kind natural resources, including the environmentally sensitive Everglades, and administering Florida’s environmental laws," DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said. "After careful review and consideration, DEP today executed a final order denying Kanter Real Estate’s application for a drilling permit in the Everglades."

Update: Damage assessments continue as water levels decrease on Lake Apopka North Shore

The St. Johns River Water Management District continues to assess and repair areas of the Lake Apopka North Shore, which experienced damage due to Hurricane Irma. As water levels subside the district is continuing to provide weekly updates on the status of repairs and recreation at the Lake Apopka North Shore.

  • Recent efforts have continued to focus on removing water on the property so damage assessments can be made regarding needed infrastructure repairs.

  • The water level recorded on Nov. 28 at the intersection of Laughlin Road and Roach Road had dropped 0.42 feet since Nov. 13. Further north on the property, water levels remain high but have dropped enough to allow staff to access gauges.

  • As pumping continues, water levels have decreased. District staff have been examining conditions and considering flood modeling to determine how best to repair and protect the overall integrity of roads and other infrastructure on the property.

  • The district continues to make damage assessments and will share a plan for reopening as soon as one becomes available. Repair plans and cost-estimates will be presented to the Governing Board in a public meeting.

  • To ensure public safety, no new openings are planned at this point due to saturated roads and high water levels, making many areas inaccessible to emergency vehicles.

  • Repairs at the levee breech remain in place. Next steps will include armoring the lake-side slope and capping the surface with lime rock.

  • On Nov. 29, a 105-acre prescribed burn was conducted on the southwest corner of the property for the maintenance of fire-dependent ecosystems.

  • Water in the district’s 760-acre marsh flow-way, a constructed wetland used for nutrient removal, remains low enough to resume normal water flow through the facility and allow the district to conduct final damage assessments in the area.

  • The Red Trail, off County Road 448A, and the McDonald Canal Boat Ramp are open. The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and nonmotorized Lake Apopka Loop Trail remain closed.

  • For continuing updates on district operations and recreational announcements, visit the district’s website, www.sjrwmd.com. More information about lake levels is available at www.sjrwmd.com/data/hydrologic/#controlled.

    Gizzard shad harvest nets 100,000 pounds of fish in one week

    Fishermen recently netted 100,000 pounds of nutrient-laden gizzard shad from Lake Apopka in one week. The St. Johns River Water Management District funds the fish harvest as part of a multifaceted approach to restoring water quality.

    “Our focus remains centered on projects that bring us closer to our goal of restoring the lake’s ecosystem,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Working in tandem with other restoration projects at the lake, the rough fish harvest produces great results that are pointing to improved water quality at Lake Apopka.”

    Gizzard shad are a native fish found in most Florida waters. Large numbers of gizzard shad may contribute to nutrient recycling by stirring up bottom sediments during feeding. Removing large numbers of undesirable fish from a waterbody also removes the nutrients in their bodies, which helps improve water quality.

    It’s expected that 1 million pounds of undesirable fish, mostly gizzard shad, along with some tilapia, gar and invasive armored catfish, will be harvested during the season, which began in late October and runs through the beginning of 2018. For every 1 million pounds of fish caught, about eight thousand pounds of phosphorus are removed. The district pays $0.58 per pound to harvest, process and transport the inedible fish, which are eventually used as bait for crayfish and crabs.

    The district has used the low-cost nutrient removal technique of reducing undesirable fish populations in various waterways since 2003. Last season, about 985,000 pounds were removed from Lake Apopka.

    The fish harvest had been previously used at Lake Griffin. In combination with other nutrient removal projects and technologies, the work was successful enough that water clarity improved, and submerged aquatic vegetation and game fish returned.

    New funding promotes septic tank replacement for homes

    MAITLAND — Knowing that septic tanks have been identified as one of the reasons for declining water quality in Florida’s springsheds, the St. Johns River Water Management District is working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and local governments to fund their removal.

    The new funding targets the removal of septic tanks in the Volusia Blue, Wekiwa and Silver springsheds, replacing them with individual distributed wastewater treatment systems (IDWTS) in areas where sewer line extensions may not exist or be financially feasible. The IDWTS is an inground, stand-alone residential wastewater treatment system. The system connects to the existing wastewater lines and drainfield. Its performance is monitored remotely by the local government or utility.

    DEP provided funding of $1 million to match a contribution of $500,000 from the district and $500,000 from local governments or utilities. With this funding, it’s expected that approximately 200 existing septic tanks from single family residences will be replaced, with an estimated reduction in nitrogen loading to the springs of about 10 to 23 pounds per year per tank, depending on location and soil type.

    A pilot project using the technology was installed at the district’s Lake Apopka Field Station in Lake County in July 2017. Samples collected before and after installation indicated total nitrogen removal efficiency of 86 percent one week after installation, and up to 98 percent removal at the end of the 8-week sampling period.

    DEP invests more than $90M in water quality improvement projects

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has provided more than $90 million toward the recent completion of seven water quality improvement projects in Central and South Florida. The funding was awarded through DEP’s Division of Water Restoration Assistance's various funding resources and programs.

    The recently completed projects include:

    Apopka: The Orange Blossom KOA septic to sewer project, funded in part by a $34,425 Florida Springs Grant to the St. Johns River Water Management District, connected the park to Apopka's existing central sewer system, improving water quality in Lake Apopka and the Wekiva springshed.

    Gasparilla Island: The Gasparilla Island reverse osmosis water treatment plant expansion project, funded in part by a $5 million Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) loan, expanded the capacity of the existing facility from 1.073 to 1.267 million gallons per day. Also included are two new brackish water supply wells and a raw water main to transport water from the new wells to the facility, which supplies potable water to its service area on Gasparilla Island in Lee County.

    Largo: The Largo Wet Weather project, funded in part by a $73.2 million Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) loan, upgraded and expanded the city's sewer and reuse systems. These much-needed improvements have helped reduce sewer overflows and ensure that treated wastewater effluent meets water quality standards.

    Martin and St. Lucie counties: The Caulkins Water Farm project was funded in part by a total of $1.5 million in Environmental Protection Agency's Section 319 nonpoint source pollution grants to the South Florida Water Management District for the original pilot project, which turned former citrus groves into a reservoir. With the pilot project's success, the reservoir was recently expanded, providing much need storage for excess stormwater from the C-44 Canal, which is linked to Lake Okeechobee. The completed project provides both water storage and a reduction in nutrient loading into the St. Lucie River and estuary.

    Sebring: The Spring Lake Improvement District's Stormwater Treatment Area project, funded in part by a total of $4.3 million in a CWSRF loan, an Environmental Protection Agency's Section 319 nonpoint source pollution grant and a legislative appropriation, constructed a lake-wetland marsh system and expanded storage capacity for stormwater treatment. The stormwater treatment area provides additional water quality treatment benefits prior to discharge into Arbuckle Creek, a tributary of Lake Istokpoga. This water is then transported to Lake Okeechobee and ultimately, the Everglades and Florida's sensitive Atlantic estuaries.

    Stuart: The distribution system and water meter upgrade project, funded in part by a $5.8 million DWSRF loan, replaced more than 11 miles of distribution piping, converted approximately 2,500 meters and installed an emergency interconnect with the Martin County water supply system. This will improve reliability of water supply to Stuart residents.

    Also in Stuart, the East Heart of Haney Creek wetlands restoration project, funded in part by $181,000 in Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Water Quality Restoration grants, re-graded approximately 6 acres of an exotic-cleared area, created berms and weirs, and restored the eastern third of Heart of Haney Creek to native wetlands. Waters from the 395-acre Eastern Haney Creek watershed will now be directed through the restored wetlands before discharge to tidal Haney Creek, and ultimately the St. Lucie estuary.

    For more information about the State Revolving Fund, Nonpoint Source water quality restoration grants, Florida Springs Grant Program and other funding opportunities, please visit the Division of Water Restoration Assistance.

    Commentary: Clermont boat ramp relocation poses challenge

    No matter what Clermont does about a boat ramp, somebody is going to be mad.

    The first angry ones will be boaters who want to get onto the Clermont Chain of Lakes after Dec. 17 — that’s when the city is closing its only boat ramp on Lake Minneola to build a stormwater project to prevent lake pollution.

    However, the city owns 2 1/2 miles of lakefront, so it ought to be easy to find a spot for another ramp, right? Oh, no, no, no. This project is destined to make lots of people unhappy before it’s over.

    The city ditched its original plan to replace the ramp with one at the old Bell Ceramics property — City Council members thought it too close to the swimming area — in favor of moving it to the northern tip of the lake, where Clermont owns more than 220 acres at Lake Hiawatha Preserve.

    “Neighbors went berserk,” City Manager Darren Gray said.

    Well, at least they did when they finally learned of the ramp. By then, Clermont already had spent $75,000 to design the project and get permits. The city backed away. Ouch. That was a waste that could have been avoided by simply communicating with neighbors who live in the county.

    The big problem, said resident Cindy Davis, was traffic on Lake Minneola Shores Road. Neighbors feared that traffic would back up to a roundabout at the entrance of the park.

    EPA, Army propose to delay WOTUS implementation

    WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) are proposing to amend the effective date of the 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States.” The agencies are proposing that the 2015 rule would not go into effect until two years after today’s action is finalized and published in the Federal Register. This amendment would give the agencies the time needed to reconsider the definition of “waters of the United States.”

    “Today’s proposal shows our commitment to our state and tribal partners and to providing regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and businesses,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This step will allow us to minimize confusion as we continue to receive input from across the country on how we should revise the definition of the ‘waters of the United States.’”

    The 2015 rule, which redefined the scope of where the Clean Water Act applies, had an effective date of August 28, 2015. Implementation of the 2015 rule is currently on hold as a result of the Sixth Circuit’s nationwide stay of the rule, but that stay may be affected by a pending Supreme Court case. The 2015 rule is also stayed in 13 states due to a North Dakota district court ruling. EPA and the Army are taking this action to provide certainty and consistency to the regulated community.

    "The Army, together with the Army Corps of Engineers, propose this rule with EPA to help continue to provide clarity and predictability to the regulated public during the rule making process. We are committed to implementing the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program as transparently as possible for the regulated public," said Mr. Ryan Fisher, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works).

    This action follows the February 28, 2017, Presidential Executive Order on "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule." The February Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution.

    The agencies’ proposal is separate from the two-step process the agencies propose to take to reconsider the 2015 rule. The comment period for the Step 1 rule closed in September and the agencies are currently working to review the comments received from the public. The agencies are also in the process of holding listening sessions with stakeholders as we work to develop a proposed Step 2 rule that would revise the definition of “waters of the United States.”

    The agencies will be collecting public comment on this proposal for 21 days after publication in the Federal Register and plan to move quickly to take final action in early 2018.

    (Source: EPA)

    Florida Chamber calls for science-based solutions to water issues

    OKEECHOBEE — “Sound water science – not political science – is the way to secure the state’s water future,” said Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber.

    “If you think about Florida’s future, more people are going to need more water,” he said.

    “That means we need to focus on securing Florida’s water future.”

    He said they don’t want Florida to end up with water shortages like California.

    “Florida is adding 1,000 people a day,” he said. “We’re going to add six million more residents in Florida by 2030.

    “By 2030 with population growth, we’re going to need 20 percent more water than we currently have available to us,” he said.

    Last year the Florida chamber launched a series of educational videos about water issues. The first four videos focused on springs, Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys and the Indian River Lagoon.

    “We reached out to a very diverse group of scientists, to people who care about protecting the environment,” he said.

    On Nov. 8, at a press conference in Tallahassee that was broadcast live online, the Florida Chamber of Commerce unveiled its fifth in a series of water education videos which further demonstrates why following science-based research is important to securing Florida’s water future. The latest educational research video provides proof that septic tank problems are detrimentally impacting Florida’s water systems. The educational video highlights research produced by Florida Atlantic University–Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor Dr. Brian Lapointe, and sheds light on the algae blooms on the St. Lucie Estuary that followed unusually heavy rainfall in the winter and spring of 2016.