Water-Related News

Florida Senate unanimously supports pollution notification rules change

The Florida Senate unanimously approved legislation Tuesday requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to inform the public within 24 hours after a spill occurs.

Senators passed SB 532 on its third and final reading.

Sponsored by Manatee County Republican Bill Galvano, the bill was filed in the wake of Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for new public notification rules and legislation to ensure the public is kept informed of incidents of pollution that may cause a threat to public health and Florida’s air and water resources. The push came after a sewage spill last fall in St. Petersburg and Mosaic’s sinkhole in Mulberry that sent toxins in the drinking water supply.

The DEP filed suit, issuing an emergency rule requiring those responsible to notify the public within 24 hours. After business groups had challenged the rule, an administrative law judge rejected the rule, saying the department exceeded its rule-making authority.

SB 532 also requires DEP to develop and publish a list of substances that “pose a substantial risk to public health, safety or welfare.” If any company fails to notify the Department of an incident involving one of the published substances, it could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day.

“People have a right to know, and it’s at the heart of public safety,” Galvano said.

All eyes are now focused on the legislation is being carried in the House (HB 1065) by Pasadena Republican Kathleen Peters. If it passes there, it goes to Scott’s desk.

Marsh Park & Boat Ramp improvements scheduled

EUSTIS — Lake County Parks & Trails on April 24 will begin Phase II of improvements at Marsh Park & Boat Ramp, 36545 Yale Retreat Road, Eustis. The scheduled work, which includes improvements to the park’s internal exit road, paving additional parking areas and other minor work, is expected to last 30 days. During this time, one of two of the park’s exit roads will be closed to traffic and parking will be limited to the existing improved paved parking area near the ramp.

Visitors should be aware that due to low water levels in Lake Yale caused by dry weather, the Marsh Park & Boat Ramp and Lake Yale East Boat Ramp, 39400 Lake Yale Boat Ramp Road, Eustis, remain closed.

As an alternative, boaters may use the Lake Yale West Boat Ramp, 39800 Thomas Boat Landing Road, Eustis.

For more information, contact the Lake County Parks & Trails Division at 352-253-4950 or via email: parksandtrails@lakecountyfl.gov.

Lake County issues countywide burn ban

TAVARES — The Lake County Public Safety Department has issued a countywide burn ban due to extremely dry weather conditions increasing the probability of wildfires. In accordance with County Code 10.5-75, the ban prohibits all outdoor burning that has not been specifically permitted by the Florida Division of Forestry. This includes burning yard waste or building recreational fires.

Lake County's Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) indicates 31 percent of the county is above 500, with the index exceeding 500 for more than 3 weeks.

The mandatory burn ban will remain in effect until further notice. Any person responsible for unlawful burning faces a minimum fine of $150 per incident, and could bear costs associated with extinguishing the fires.

Lake County firefighters are currently battling a 700-acre wildfire in the northern area of the county along State Road 44 in Eustis.

Structural protection strike teams, consisting of personnel from Lake County Fire Rescue, the cities of Eustis, Tavares, Mount Dora, Leesburg, Minneola, Groveland, Clermont and The Villages, have committed resources for immediate deployment should a wildfire threaten property.

“Partnerships are essential in a community such as Lake County to protect all citizens and property owners from dangerous wildfires,” said Lake County Fire Rescue Chief Jim Dickerson. “The strike teams were crucial to saving 20 homes over the weekend.”

Under the burn ban, outdoor grilling is permitted, however residents should keep a constant watch for any stray sparks or embers. ATVs, dirt bikes, and even lawn mowers can pose a risk for accidental ignition. An effective way to reduce the possibility of wildfires near homes is to clear underbrush or debris blown down during storms, as dry plants and vegetation create fuel for wildfires.

Residents are urged to comply fully with the burn ban until weather conditions improve and the ban can be safely lifted. Residents are also asked to immediately report any signs of smoke or fire by calling 911.

The career firefighters of Lake County Fire Rescue protect county residents and visitors in an area covering approximately 1,200 square miles, with nearly 70,000 residences and up to 2,000 commercial properties. For up-to-date news on Lake County Fire Rescue, visit, www.facebook.com/LakeCountyFireRescue, or www.twitter.com/lakefirePIO.

New irrigation rules in effect March 12th

Irrigation is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

During daylight saving time (second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November) irrigation is limited to no more than two days per week on scheduled days.

Residential irrigation is allowed on Wednesday and Saturday at addresses that end in an odd number or have no address.

Residential irrigation is allowed on Thursday and Sunday at addresses that end in an even number. Nonresidential irrigation is allowed on Tuesday and Friday.

While about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, only about 1 percent is readily available for public use, agriculture, plants and animals. Water conservation is an important part of ensuring the sustainability of Florida’s water supply; watering restrictions, expanded use of reclaimed water and the use of water-efficient appliances are ways the district works to encourage conservation.

THIS WEB POSTING WAS COPIED FROM THE ST JOHNS RIVER WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT WEB SITE: For more details about watering restrictions, visit www.sjrwmd.com/wateringrestrictions.

New primer to “living shorelines” published

News Image

A synthesis of recent thinking and results from practitioners and researchers of Living Shorelines just hit the stands. “Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-Based Coastal Protection,” details many aspects of the shoreline stabilization approach, and specifically includes: (1) background: history and evolution; (2) management, policy, and design; (3) synthesis of Living Shoreline science: physical and biological aspects; and (4) summary and future guidance. Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science participated in the project.

Carolyn Currin, Jenny Davis, and Amit Malhotra contributed a chapter entitled "Response of Salt Marshes to Wave Energy Provides Guidance for Successful Living Shoreline Implementation". The multi-faceted chapter provides information pertaining to the: energetic determinants of marsh habitat distribution; relationship between shoreline wave energy and marsh erosion rates; and the ability of fringing marshes to attenuate waves and trap sediments. The chapter also describes the results of a case study of natural and stabilized fringing salt marsh from central North Carolina and combines these results with those from the literature review to provide guidance on the physical settings in which fringing marsh and hybrid living shorelines can be considered.

Coastal ecosystem functions have diminished as estuarine and coastal shorelines have been managed mostly to support human infrastructure and economic benefits. Coastal management has evolved to include the use of nature-based shoreline erosion control approaches. Living Shorelines are intended to restore natural shoreline functions in estuarine, marine, and aquatic systems.

Public workshop April 20 on draft MFLs for Alexander Springs, two others

News Image

PALATKA – The St. Johns River Water Management District is holding a public workshop to provide information and receive public comments on proposed minimum flows for three Outstanding Florida Springs - Alexander Springs in Lake County, Gemini Springs in Volusia County and Silver Glen Springs in Marion County. Florida law requires the adoption of minimum flows and levels (MFLs) statewide for 31 Outstanding Florida Springs by July 1, 2017, including Alexander, Silver Glen and Gemini springs.

WHAT: Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) public workshop for Alexander, Silver Glen and Gemini springs

WHEN: April 20, 2017, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

WHERE: SJRWMD headquarters, Governing Board room, 4049 Reid St., Palatka, FL 32177

The workshop is an opportunity for district staff to present information and take public comment on the recommended MFLs for Alexander, Silver Glen and Gemini springs. MFLs set the limit of available water beyond which further water withdrawals would be significantly harmful to a water body.

The public comment period for these MFLs is April 13-May 4, 2017.

For more information or to review or comment on the draft report on the proposed MFLs, visit the district's webpage at www.sjrwmd.com/facts/AlexanderSilverGlenGeminiMFL.html.

Lake County encourages residents to use caution when applying fertilizer

News Image

TAVARES— To help ensure the protection of Lake County’s water quality, the Board of County Commissioners is reminding residents to follow these tips when landscaping, fertilizing and irrigating lawns.

  • Only Rain Down the Drain. Be mindful of mulch and leaves that may be blown or washed into storm drains. Stormwater runoff often carries unwanted materials into lakes and streams.
  • Fertilize Wisely. Use fertilizer only if needed and apply in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Maintain a 10-foot setback from water bodies when applying fertilizer and clean up any that falls onto driveways or sidewalks.
  • Be Florida Friendly. Use the University of Florida’s Florida Friendly Landscaping™ principles when designing yard projects and making plant selections. For information, contact the UF/IFAS Extension in Lake County at 352-343-4101 or visit http://lake.ifas.ufl.edu.

The Lake County Board of County Commissioners has scheduled a public hearing during its regular board meeting on a proposed Fertilizer Ordinance affecting unincorporated Lake County at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 18 inside the Board Chambers, located on the second floor of the County Administration Building, 315 W. Main St., Tavares.

The proposed ordinance is being advanced to meet the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act requirement for jurisdictions within an impaired springshed. This proposed ordinance follows the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Model Ordinance for Urban Fertilizer Application and implements existing industry accepted Best Management Practices for the application of fertilizer to urban lawns.

More than 100 Florida wildfires scorch state, a sign of how dry we are

Last year Florida was waterlogged. This year Florida is on fire.

More than 100 active wildfires are burning across the state right now, according to the Florida Forest Service. Twenty-five of them are scorching more than 100 acres each.

"We're usually not this active this early in the season," the service's assistant fire chief, Ralph Crawford, said Monday.

Since February, wildfires have swept across 68,000 acres of the state, Crawford said, noting that that amount is higher than the average acreage burned over the past five years.

"And we're just barely into April," he added. "Usually May is our busiest month."

Heavy rains north of Gainesville last week helped tamp down the wildfire threat in North Florida, said Florida's state climatologist, David Zierden. But south of Gainesville remains so dry that most of the peninsula is classified as being in a moderate drought, while southwest Florida is classified as facing extreme drought conditions.

With no rain forecast for at least another week, "it's going to get worse before it gets better," Zierden predicted.

Lake looks to preserve waterways with fertilizer regulations

News Image

In an effort to preserve wetlands, Lake County commissioners are considering whether to enforce tougher rules for homeowners whose lawn fertilizer is being washed into rivers and lakes.

If approved, Lake would become the second Central Florida county to enact stricter fertilizing rules this year. Seminole enacted a similar ordinance in February. Commissioners voted this week to advertise a public hearing April 18 to get input from residents on the proposed measure.

The new rules, planned to take effect July 1, would create a no-fertilizing buffer around waterways and ban products containing nitrogen and phosphorous during heavy-rain warnings. Rainfall causes the chemicals to wash into lakes and streams, spurring algae growth that chokes out plants and leaves an unsightly green sheen.

Supreme Court will not pause Obama WOTUS rule

The Supreme Court will not pause a case concerning the Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. Rule in a blow to the Trump administration. The justices’ decision came with no explanation.

The White House opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ rule and asked the court to hold off on the case while the agencies formally consider repealing it.

The Supreme Court case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, does not concern the merits of the controversial regulation.

Instead, the industry groups opposed to the rule want the high court to overturn the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s opinion that it has the primary jurisdiction over the case. The Sixth Circuit decision had consolidated cases filed in dozens of other federal circuit and district courts.

Supporters of the WOTUS rule, including environmental groups and some Democratic states, want the case to stay consolidated at the Sixth Circuit. They also asked the Supreme Court not to delay its case.

President Trump formally asked the EPA and Army Corps to reconsider the rule in February, calling it “a horrible, horrible rule.” The agencies began reconsideration process shortly after Trump signed an executive order.

The Supreme Court has asked litigants to submit their first briefs later this month. The justices have not scheduled oral arguments.

Some observers say the best way to deal with this is via legislation, where the outlook for such action is good in the House, but Senate Democrats in the past have not given support to anti-WOTUS rule legislation.

Storm drain marking app developed by Lake County Water Authority

News Image

Many local governments have storm drain marking programs, with some having a requirement to do so in their stormwater permits. Although the Lake County Water Authority (LCWA) does not have a stormwater permit, it is the goal of the its staff eventually to have every storm drain in Lake County marked. To that end, LCWA regularly purchases markers and provides them to volunteers around the County. A difficulty arose in recording which areas had already been marked, and in directing volunteers to new areas. Enter LCWA GIS guru Ben Garcia, who offered to make an app.

Here’s how it works: Volunteers sign in to LCWA's ArcGIS site. The app detects the volunteer's location and asks the volunteer to select the street he is on, and to record the date and number of markers on that street. The map is updated in real time, showing completed streets and those with no storm drains. This allows LCWA to add data at a later date, when a stormwater system is installed.

For more information on the storm drain marking app, please contact Ben Garcia (beng@lcwa.org). To volunteer to mark storm drains in your neighborhood, please contact Maryann Krisovitch.