Water-Related News

Decades-old maps don’t fully capture Central Florida’s flooding risk

Flooding can be tough to predict. For Central Florida communities relying on official flood maps that are almost 20 years old, it can be even more difficult.

A lot has changed in two decades, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood maps don’t fully account for all those changes: like development, stormwater infrastructure, and climate change.

But importantly, the scope of FEMA flood maps is limited to begin with. The maps are designed primarily to illustrate where one, specific type of flood is most likely to occur: the 100-year flood.

Also called a Special Flood Hazard Area or SFHA, the 100-year floodplain is an area with at least a 1% chance of flooding each year. But it’s a bit of a deceptive term, according to Seminole County Public Works Project Manager Jeff Sloman.

“What's called a 100-year flood, is defined as a storm event that, statistically, has a 1% chance of occurring every year. It's not a storm that occurs every hundred years,” Sloman said.

In fact, in the last five years alone, nearly half of U.S. counties experienced a flood event, according to FEMA. And nationally, 40% of flood insurance claims come from outside the 100-year floodplain.

“Binary views, the ‘in or out’ of a flood zone, can lead to the misconception that properties outside of the FEMA flood zone are safe from flooding,” a FEMA spokesperson wrote in an email to Central Florida Public Media. “There is no such thing as a ‘no-risk zone.’”

Maintenance work to impact traffic at Lake Apopka North Shore

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Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive may have to be closed June 7-9

PALATKA — The St. Johns River Water Management District will be performing maintenance work on Laughlin Road just south of McDonald Canal Road from May 28 to June 13.

During this time, pedestrians can bypass the construction area using the Loop Trail. However, this project may impact the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive during the weekend of June 7–9. Unfortunately, there is no detour available for the drive, and the District may need to close the drive for the weekend.

The contractor aims to complete the work as quickly as possible and hopes to finish it before the weekend. However, due to the nature of the work, this cannot be guaranteed until the project is underway, and progress is assessed.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate the community’s patience and understanding as we undertake these critical improvements.

For updates on the project’s progress, please check www.sjrwmd.com/meetings-announcements or follow us on social media.

US Circuit Court of Appeals nixes Florida’s request for a stay in a wetlands permitting fight

Rejecting arguments by Florida and business groups, an appeals court Monday refused to put on hold a U.S. district judge’s ruling in a battle about permitting authority for projects that affect wetlands.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued an order that said Florida “has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay” while an appeal of U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss’ ruling plays out. The order did not provide further explanation.

The case, which is closely watched by business and environmental groups, stems from a 2020 decision by the federal government to shift permitting authority to the state for projects that affect wetlands. Moss in February ruled that actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in approving the shift violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

DOH-Lake issues Blue-Green Algae Health Alert for Lake Yale – (Center)

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May 20, 2024

EUSTIS – The Florida Department of Health in Lake County (DOH-Lake) has issued a health alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algae toxins in Lake Yale - Center. The alert is in response to a water sample taken on May 7, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Yale – Center.

DOH-Lake advises residents and visitors to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercrafts, or come into contact with waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have any contact with algae, or discolored or water that smells unpleasant.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from the area to avoid any contact with water. Waters where algae blooms are present are not safe for Pets and livestock should use an alternative source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae Boiling the water will not eliminate toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts, and cook fish thoroughly.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and partners collect algae samples from reported bloom locations. After samples are analyzed at their laboratory, the toxin results can be viewed on the Protecting Florida Together website or on DEP’s Algal Bloom Dashboard.

Hickory Point Recreation Complex to partially close boat ramps for renovations

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LAKE COUNTY – Due to improvements to the facility, Lake County’s Hickory Point Recreation Complex (located at 27341 FL-19, Tavares, FL) has planned partial closers for on-site boat ramps.

To ensure boating access to Lake Harris throughout construction, the facility's boat ramps will close in phases. The east ramps will be closed for phase one, while the west ramps remain open. Once complete, the east ramps will reopen, and the west ramps will begin construction for phase two. This will leave half of the park's boat ramps open for use at any given time during the construction period. Patrons are asked to adhere to ramp closure signage and new traffic routes through various stages of the project.

Construction is estimated to last 260 days, and will begin Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

For more information, please call 352-253-4950 or email parksandtrails@lakecountyfl.gov.

Aquatic plants are a sign that Lake Apopka is recovering after decades of pollution

ORANGE COUNTY – What was once considered Florida’s most polluted lake is making strides in its road to recovery. Agricultural discharge caused Lake Apopka to lose its submerged aquatic vegetation for more than 50 years, but thanks to efforts from the St. Johns River Water Management District, aquatic plants are growing once again. It’s a sign that water quality is improving and that restoration efforts are working.

Lake Apopka was once a main attraction in Central Florida.

“There were over 20 fish camps around the lake,” Jim Peterson with the St. Johns River Water Management District said. “They had lodging, they rented boats, they sold bait, they had entertainment. It was a place to come visit.”

In the early 20th century, Lake Apopka was considered the most reliable bass-fishing lake in the South — but by the 1940s, everything changed. Food shortage concerns during World War II caused 20,000 acres of the lake’s North Shore to be drained and used for agricultural production.

“That area became completely under cultivation,” Peterson said. “They did a great job of growing vegetables mostly and crops, but it added a lot of pollution to Lake Apopka.”

Drainage from the farms increased the lake’s phosphorus levels and led to a continuous algal bloom. Due to the algae, sunlight couldn’t reach the bottom of the lake, which caused native submerged aquatic vegetation to die off and the bass population to decline. At one point, Lake Apopka was considered Florida’s most polluted lake.

Florida's outdated urban drainage systems cause more flooding, but there' a natural solution

In the 1900s, swamps and low-lying areas were drained to create more space for development and farming.

Florida has a lot of altered drainage networks, like ditches and canals, but at a recent resiliency summit in Clearwater, it became clear that these are increasingly becoming obsolete and can actually make flooding worse.

There are 80,000 linear miles of stream channels in Florida, and almost two-thirds of those are ditches and canals.

These water systems were originally put in to drain parts of the state for development.

But John Kiefer, an environmental engineer with Black & Veatch who moderated a panel discussion on the subject at the Regional Resiliency Summit, said these are not stable.

"They require perennial maintenance, otherwise they erode — sometimes catastrophically, sometimes chronically," Kiefer told the audience in one of the breakout rooms at the Hilton Clearwater Beach.

He said the eroding sediment could plug up openings, compounding the flooding that's already increasing from climate change.

Along with sea level rise, warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate from the land and oceans, creating more frequent and heavier rain events.

Kiefer also said altering the landscape causes problems for wildlife, so some fish don't have access to proper water bodies, for instance.

"So, what is the cure? Well, the cure can follow a gradient from near to natural solutions to highly engineered ones," Kiefer said.

These systems can be re-patterned so they process water and sediment more naturally.

Take Sarasota County's Phillippi Creek Watershed, for example.

Kiefer said 95 of the 100 miles of canals there are eligible for this kind of restoration, but a project like this could cost $2 million per mile.

Governor announces investments in Wildlife Corridor, red tide mitigation

For the second day in a row, DeSantis focused on environmental investments.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation to boost red tide research and direct funding toward expanding Florida’s Wildlife Corridor.

“With the investments we’re getting, we’re on our way to linking these areas so that we can promote safe and stabilized species movements,” DeSantis said.

The Governor signed the legislation in Naples, a region Senate President Kathleen Passidomo represents. Environmental investments had been chief priorities for Passidomo during the past two Legislative Sessions.

DeSantis at the event stressed the need to preserve Florida’s environment for future generations to enjoy. The announcements Tuesday came a day after DeSantis also promised a $1.5 billion investment in Everglades restoration and other water improvement projects.

In fighting red tide algal blooms, DeSantis signed mitigation legislation (HB 1565) extending a partnership between the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and More Marine Laboratory in Sarasota to study prevention and mitigation technologies.