Water-Related News

St. Johns River blue crab trap closure ending early

Recreational and commercial blue crab traps can be placed back in all waters of the St. Johns River system starting Friday, Jan. 21. The closure included all waters of the St. Johns River system and its associated lakes and tributaries from west of the St. Johns River’s intersection with the Intracoastal Canal, through and including Lake Hellen Blazes in Brevard County.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps are a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can continue to trap crabs and fish when left in the water. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water. Closures like this give groups authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water.

The closure is one of three regional, 10-day blue crab trap closures in 2022 on the Atlantic coast of Florida. There are six regional closures total: three in odd-numbered years on the west coast and three in even-numbered years on the east coast.

For more information regarding the FWC’s trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, and regulations and cleanup events, go online to MyFWC.com/Marine and click “Traps and Debris”. For additional information, call 850-487-0554.

Florida resiliency plan scrutinized for failure to address prevention, aid smaller communities

'We're spending a whole lot of money here on projects in a reactive way.'

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection presented its first Resilient Florida plan Tuesday evening — but not without some criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The plan, presented to the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee, provided a preliminary outline for the Resilient Florida Grant Program — the state’s new annual $100 million commitment to tackle issues around sea level rise and mitigation efforts. The program was established under SB 1954, a 2021 legislative priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls that was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis last summer.

Adam Blalock, the DEP Deputy Secretary for Ecosystems Restoration, presented the proposal to the committee. He outlined how the department selected the projects it put forth in the grant list, starting with local governments submitting project grant requests via the DEP’s Resilient Florida online portal, which opened July 1. Submissions closed Sept. 1.

The department received 384 project requests through the portal, totaling nearly $2.25 billion, Blalock said. After evaluating the projects for eligibility — the proposals could not be used for recreational structures like piers or for aesthetics — 275 projects were left, totaling $1.77 billion.

Environmental groups wary of Florida Senate’s ‘Heartland’ plan

Critics contend the money could be broadly used under the bill, going beyond the intent of a 2014 voter-approved constitutional amendment.

TALLAHASSEE – Florida lawmakers could further carve up the use of voter-approved conservation money, after a Leon County circuit judge this month rejected a challenge by environmental groups to how money has been spent.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday approved a measure (Senate Bill 1400) that would provide $20 million a year to help protect the headwaters of several waterways in Central Florida.

The bill would help carry out a 2017 law known as the Heartland Headwaters Protection and Sustainability Act, which was designed to protect the headwaters of the Alafia, Hillsborough, Kissimmee, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee rivers in the Green Swamp and Polk County. The bill points, at least in part, to concerns about future water supplies in the region.

SJRWMD hosting public meeting to discuss Johns Lake surface water model

PALATKA – The St. Johns River Water Management District will hold a public meeting on Feb. 8 to begin the peer review process for the surface water model for Johns Lake in Orange and Lake counties, located within the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) area.

The District is currently completing a minimum flows and levels (MFLs) determination for Johns Lake, which is established to help protect the lake from significant harm due to groundwater or surface water withdrawals. The current plan is to submit a Notice of Proposed Rule (NPR) for Johns Lake by the end of 2023.

In November 2021, the District completed development of an interconnected channel and pond routing (ICPR4) model. This public meeting will kick off the peer review of the Johns Lake ICPR model, and future workshops or teleconferences will focus on peer review of model calibration and application. Review of this model is part of the comprehensive CFWI peer review process for Johns Lake.

The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. with a presentation at the Oakland Nature Preserve and conclude with a site visit to Johns Lake.

WHAT: Johns Lake surface water model peer review kick off
WHEN: Feb. 8, 2022; 1 p.m.
WHERE: Oakland Nature Preserve, 747 Machete Trail Oakland, FL 34760

Establishing MFLs is an important component of the District’s work of planning for adequate water supplies for today and for future generations while also protecting the District’s water resources.

This legislative session, lawmakers to take up water quality, land conservation and seagrass

Florida lawmakers convene Tuesday in Tallahassee for the start of the legislative session.

WMFE environmental reporter Amy Green talked with Pam West of 1000 Friends of Florida about environmental priorities, like whether there is a measure to address an unprecedented manatee die-off.

WEST: No. In fact, there is a bill that proposes to do the exact opposite, and you would never know it by its title. It’s the Seagrass Mitigation Bank bill.

It’s the one bill that we’re looking at this legislative session that could do more to harm the beloved manatee than any other bill out there. Because what it proposes is to take existing, viable healthy seagrass beds and destroy them and try to mitigate for that loss sometime later down the road.

GREEN: The measure authorizes seagrass mitigation banks to offset losses. Pam West, what should lawmakers be doing?

WEST: One of the easiest things that could have happened this legislative session — they tried to make it happen last legislative session — was the implementation of the recommendations from Gov. DeSantis’ own Blue Green Algae Taskforce.

They worked around the state with all these workshops. Hundreds of hours by experts and citizen input. Had some robust recommendations, and yet not one of these recommendations have so far been implemented and codified into law. And we are now unfortunately seeing the consequences of not taking action on Florida’s impaired waters.

SJRWMD cost-share project applications accepted through Feb. 18th

Stretch local dollars to protect water resources

PALATKA – The St. Johns River Water Management District is accepting applications Jan. 4–Feb. 18 for both its Fiscal Year 2022–2023 Districtwide Cost-Share Program and its FY 2022–2023 funding program for Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) communities and innovative projects. Through its cost-share programs, the District partners with communities on projects that stretch local dollars to support water resource protection.

The Districtwide Cost-Share Program is open to any applicant with a project that benefits one of the four District core missions but is not an operations and maintenance or innovative project.

Through this cost-share program, the District will fund up to 25% of construction costs for selected alternative water supply, water quality, flood protection and natural systems projects, and up to 50% for water conservation projects. The program will fund up to $3 million per project or per applicant.

Project criteria, application instructions and additional information about the program are available on the District’s website at www.sjrwmd.com/localgovernments/funding.

For the REDI/Innovative program, REDI communities are economically disadvantaged with an employment base dominated by traditional agriculture or resource-based industries and a population of 25,000 or less. REDI-designated communities within the District are Baker, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and Okeechobee counties, all communities within those counties, and the communities of Astatula, Fellsmere, Hawthorne, Pierson and Umatilla.

An innovative project is one that uses emerging or proven technology in a unique way to provide alternative water supply quantities or to expand available quantities to offset groundwater withdrawal, or to otherwise improve the water resources of the District in support of the core missions.

REDI community projects and innovative projects are eligible for a maximum District cost-share of $500,000 per project and per entity and a limit of $3 million for all cost-share opportunities (Districtwide and REDI/Innovative programs combined) per fiscal year.

The District will fund up to 50% of construction costs for selected REDI/Innovative projects. REDI communities can submit a waiver of matching funds letter, which allows for up to 100% reimbursement of construction costs within the maximum funding constraints.

Over the past seven years, 276 Districtwide and REDI/Innovative cost-share projects have been completed. By the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30, the District will have invested $162.1 million in local communities on beneficial, cost-effective partnership projects to protect water resources.

Staff anticipate recommending projects for board consideration at the April 2022 Governing Board meeting.