Water-Related News

Now you can take your boater safety exam online

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FWC now allows online providers to offer boating safety exam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new change offers various benefits to liveries:

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

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

Report outlines Florida’s major environmental concerns

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Spoiler alert: Three of the six are about water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Algae monitor sponsored by NASA installed in Lake Okeechobee

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

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

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

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

More:TCPalm's complete coverage of water issues

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

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

Hydrilla growth in Little Lake Harris causing worry

Howey-in-the-Hills residents are alarmed that hydrilla, a pea green invasive aquatic weed, is growing out of control in Little Lake Harris and preventing people from accessing the lake from their docks, Mayor Chris Sears said Friday.

“I’m extremely concerned about the health of the lake. The hydrilla is getting just exponentially bigger and wider,” Sears said. “It looks to be halfway out in Little Lake Harris now.”

The problem is most critical in areas of the lake bordering North Lakeshore Boulevard, a couple of blocks from the historic Howey mansion, which has been refurbished and has become a popular tourist attraction for the Lake County town of about 1,200 about 40 miles northwest of downtown Orlando.

Looking for answers on how to combat the problem, Howey invited a representative of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to speak to town council members at their meeting Monday night. FWC invasive plant management biologist Nathalie Visscher is due to appear when the meeting begins at 6 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Groveland water plant repair to cause low water pressure

Groveland residents will experience low water pressure for eight to 10 weeks while the treatment plant on State Road 565A is shut down because of a major chlorine gas leak, city officials said.

“It is advised to minimize water usage and avoid car washing, irrigating or any other non-essential use,” the statement said, adding that reclaimed water is unaffected.

The electrical cords and electronic controls were also damaged and need to be repaired or replaced.

The malfunction at the plant initially began on July 17 and the city issued a water boil advisory for residents generally south of Cherry Lake and Lake Lucy that lasted a couple of days.

Clermont holds grand opening for Victory Pointe

CLERMONT — A standing room only crowd turned out Friday morning as Clermont held a grand opening for Victory Pointe, a stormwater treatment system/passive park and event venue.

The festivities included speeches, tours, live music by saxophonist Jay Guess and a performance by the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team.

Located near downtown, Victory Pointe features ponds, boardwalks, docks, an area for staging athletic events, and a 40-foot observation tower.

It has been under construction for just over a year, and crews worked all night to make the place presentable for the big day.

“We’ve been waiting for this for years, and look what it came to be,” Mayor Gail Ash told the crowd. “You have to see it. Enjoy it. Come down. Stroll around. Have fun.”

City manager Darren Gray was the master of ceremonies, and representatives from all the city’s funding partners were present: State of Florida, St. Johns River Water Management District, Lake County, and Lake County Water Authority.

Lake County hosts collection events in August

Mark your calendar for these household hazardous waste and unwanted medication collection events

TAVARES — Lake County Solid Waste is encouraging Lake County residents to dispose of unwanted household hazardous materials and medications in a safe and environmentally conscious way at the following three upcoming collection events in August:

August 2nd – 9 a.m. to noon
Home Depot, 10825 U.S. Highway 441, Leesburg
Hazardous waste and medications, in partnership with Leesburg Police

August 16th – 9 a.m. to noon
Lady Lake Convenience Center, 1200 Jackson St., Lady Lake
Hazardous waste only

August 30 – 9 a.m. to noon
Eustis Square Shopping Plaza, 218 W. Ardice Ave. Eustis
Hazardous waste only

Representatives will be on-hand to collect unused or unwanted medications in addition to small quantities of waste products such as lawn and gardening materials, photo and swimming pool chemicals, paint and related products, cleaning solutions, motor oil and gas, batteries, fluorescent lamps, light bulbs and small propane tanks.

Staff at the event will be offering convenient drive-thru disposal of items so residents won’t have to leave their vehicles. Materials such as infectious waste, solvents, chemical laboratory waste and radioactive waste are prohibited.

Excessive amounts of hazardous materials will not be accepted due to limited space in the mobile unit. If residents have large quantities of items to dispose of, a special drop-off day will be scheduled at the Central Solid Waste Facility, 13130 County Landfill Road, Tavares. To schedule a drop-off, call 352-343-3776.

The collection events are open to Lake County residents only.

For more information about this event, or to find out about future collection events, visit www.lakecountyfl.gov/hazardouswaste or call Lake County Solid Waste at 352-343-3776.

Disguised stormwater treatment project to be useful, scenic

TAVARES – Work on the $5.6 million Ruby Street Stormwater Improvement and Beautification Plan, a project in downtown Tavares that has been under construction for two years, is nearing completion.

Tavares City Administrator John Drury said finishing touches should be completed in time for most of the city’s year-end holiday celebrations.

The city will hold a street party to inaugurate the project sometime in November.

“It is the kickoff to the season when all of our northern friends come back to enjoy our great climate, our great weather and our great events,” Drury said.

The project’s underlying purpose is to treat runoff storm water and direct it through pipes beneath Ruby Street to man-made ponds surrounded by wooden bridge and lush landscaping. Those ponds, which will be the centerpiece of a scenic park, will treat the runoff before it discharges into Lake Dora.