Water-Related News

Vote for a name for manatee “Leesburg's” baby

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Manatee research scientists with Florida-based Sea to Shore Alliance have recently positively identified “Leesburg,” the manatee last spotted in the Harris Chain of Lakes in May 2017, with her wild born calf. The first documented manatee in Lake County, “Leesburg” slipped her tracking tag in December. Scientists hesitated to re-tag her so as not to disturb Ms. Leesburg and her baby. Fortunately, in January of this year, both Mom and calf have been confirmed healthy in a small spring on the St. Johns River.

Last fall, the Lake County Water Authority asked citizens to help name the new calf. The top four names are Sunset, Miracle, Tavares and Sherbet. LCWA staff ask you to visit their website at www.lcwa.org to cast your vote for the calf’s name. The winning name will be announced at the LCWA Board of Trustees meeting on May 23, 2018 and posted to their website.

It is not known yet whether Ms. Leesburg and her calf will make Lake County their home again this year but Ron Hart, LCWA Water Resources Director encourages boaters to be aware of the possibility. “Boaters should post someone on the boat to be the lookout; and boat with care, particularly when boating along a shoreline or when nearing a ramp or other structures.” Never approach or attempt to feed or provide water to a manatee. This practice can impact their natural behaviors and is a finable offense in the State of Florida.

For more information, please contact Ron Hart at 352-324-6141 ext. 24 or ronh@lcwa.org.

Learn more about Leesburg and how you can protect manatees »

Rainfall and water level update from LCWA

By Anna Ely, LCWA – Apr 17, 2018

The rainfall associated with the frontal activity over the past couple of weeks has helped to keep the lake levels up. For 2018, through the end of March, Lake County has a 2.26-inch surplus or 167% of average year-to-date rainfall.

As of this morning Lake Minnehaha, the reference lake for the Clermont Chain, is at 96.64 ft. MSL, slightly below the middle of the regulatory range. The regulatory range is from 96.0 ft. to 97.50 ft. The lake is about 0.60 ft. higher than it was at this same time last year. The combined flow from Big and Little Creeks into Lake Louisa is 2.23 cfs (cubic ft. per second) or 1,011 gpm (gallons per minute). As a comparison, in October 2017 after Hurricane Irma, the combine flow from Big and Little Creeks was 659 cfs or 289,960 gpm. The Cherry Lake Dam has been closed since February 20, 2018 when Lake Minnehaha was at 97.11 ft. MSL.

For the Harris Chain of Lakes, Lake Apopka is currently at 66.01 ft. which is 0.12 above the regulatory level of 65.89 ft. Flow from Lake Apopka through the Nutrient Reduction Facility (NuRF) was increased from 10 cfs to 150 cfs as of Monday April 16th. The middle lakes (Beauclair, Carlton, Dora, Eustis and Harris) are currently at 62.29 ft., slightly above the regulatory level of 62.21 ft. Flow from the middles lakes through the Burrell lock and dam is at 321 cfs. For Lake Griffin, the lake is currently at 58.28 ft. slightly above the regulatory level of 58.21 ft. Flow from Lake Griffin through the Moss Bluff lock and dam is at 320 cfs.

This is the beginning of the typically dry time of year and the rainy season doesn’t usually get going until mid-June. This time of year is when evaporation rates are at their highest (warm days, bright sunny skies and relatively low humidity) and irrigation rates are also at their highest. As such, the lake levels may fall unless the area receives some significant rainfall.

Clermont Chain of Lakes - Lakes Academy

The Lake County Water Authority is sponsoring Citizens Lakes Academy at the Clermont City Recreation Department Highlander Building, 330 Third Street in Clermont on Saturday, April 28th from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm. Modeled after other citizen academies, the focus of this one day workshop is to provide local residents with a better understanding of the local water resources and the affect these wetlands, lakes and rivers have on the quality of life in south Lake County.

Topics:

  • Clermont Chain of Lakes
  • Hydrology
  • Rainfall and Lake Levels
  • Historic Flow
  • Habitats and Wildlife
  • Lake County Water Atlas
  • Field Excursions

Presentations will be given by staff from the Lake County Water Authority and the City of Clermont. To register call (352) 324-6141, extension 0.

HUD sending additional $791 million to Florida for hurricane recovery

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will send $791 million to Florida through its Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program to help homes and buildings damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Matthew.

U.S. HUD Sec. Ben Carson made the announcement on Tuesday morning. HUD sent $616 million to Florida back in November to help hurricane recovery efforts.

“It’s clear that a number of states and local communities are still struggling to recover from a variety of natural disasters that occurred in the past three years,” Carson said. “These grants will help rebuild communities impacted by past disasters and will also protect them from major disasters in the future.”

Most of the money, almost $633.5 million, will go to support “mitigation activities” which HUD describes as "actions taken to protect people and property from the predictable damage from future events and can include elevating homes, property buyouts, and hardening structures from wind and water." Almost $550 million of that is in response to disasters from 2017 with the remainder, almost $84 million, in response to disasters from 2016. More than $158 million has been set aside to restore homes, businesses and infrastructure that were damaged by the storms.

HUD will issue more guidelines on how the CDBG-DR Program funds will be spent in the coming weeks. The state will now craft a disaster recovery plan which will include recommendations with local and citizen input on how the funds will be spent.

FSU Research: Urban growth leads to shorter, more intense wet seasons in Florida peninsula

New research from Florida State University scientists has found that urban areas throughout the Florida peninsula are experiencing shorter, increasingly intense wet seasons relative to underdeveloped or rural areas.

The study, published in the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, provides new insight into the question of land development's effect on seasonal climate processes.

Using a system that indexed urban land cover on a scale of one to four -- one being least urban and four being most urban -- the researchers mapped the relationship between land development and length of wet season.

"What we found is a trend of decreasing wet-season length in Florida's urban areas compared to its rural areas," said Vasu Misra, associate professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science and lead investigator of the study.

According to Misra's research, changing land cover over the past 40 to 60 years has resulted in a decrease in wet-season length by 3.5 hours per year in Florida's most urban areas compared to its most rural areas.

However, the linear trends of seasonal rainfall accumulation over that same period were found to have remained relatively stable across Florida's diverse land cover regions.

2018 hurricane season expected to be an active one

While images of destruction caused by last year's battery of hurricanes are still fresh in the minds of many Americans, including those living on Puerto Rico where after six months power is not fully restored, forecasters are cautioning the public to brace themselves for another busy hurricane season.

Researchers at Colorado State University predict this will be a slightly above-average season, with 14 tropical storms in 2018. Seven are expected to become hurricanes, which have a wind speed of at least 74 mph. Three of those seven are expected to be major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, with winds reaching a minimum of 111 mph.

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs from June 1 through the end of November.

"Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted," researchers say.

By comparison, 2017 had a total of 17 named storms — with 10 becoming hurricanes and six of them major hurricanes — including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. But that number exceeded forecasters' expectations, including the team from CSU. The university had only anticipated 11 tropical storms with four becoming hurricanes.

Opinion: It’s time to reconsider cisterns

By Tom Palmer, published April 7th, 2018 in the Lakeland Ledger

The looming water supply problems in this part of Florida have revived some talk of an old idea: cisterns.

Cisterns have been used in various parts of the world for centuries.

In case you’re unfamiliar with cisterns, they are simply water-tight containers of various sizes that are used to collect and store rainwater for future use.

The concept was part of a discussion at the recent Polk County Water School that I attended to give local government officials and some other invited folks a chance to hear the latest about local water issues and solutions.

In the current terminology, cisterns could be viewed as another alternative water supply.

You may hear this term regularly if you’re following local water supply issues because the best research has determined that tapping the Floridan aquifer to supply all of our water needs is coming to an end.

That’s because continuing to pump increased quantities of water from the aquifer at the rate we have done in the past is unsustainable.

That’s where alternative water supplies come in.

This word about the approaching end of business-as-usual in the water supply world is coming out at the same time as a series of in-depth studies conducted in conjunction with a regional effort called the Central Florida Water Initiative. This initiative grew out of an earlier effort to forge a regional plan for supplying water and heading off the kind of water wars that raged in the Tampa Bay area in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you want to know the effect of unsustainable water pumping, the Tampa Bay area offers plenty of lessons.

I recently received a 2010 report to the Florida Legislature from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that contained a map depicting a 50-year boundary for salt-water intrusion in the Floridan aquifer that extends to the outskirts of Brandon. It leaves you to wonder how close to Polk County the 100-year boundary will be.

Polluters are dumping into Florida waterways

Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Florida’s waterways 270 times over 21 months, the tenth worst total in the nation, according to a new report by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center. However, the facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution. Environment Florida Research and Policy Center is releasing its Troubled Waters report as the federal government tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

“All Florida waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida. “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment, and they aren’t being held accountable.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Florida Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, both in Florida and across the country.

Hurricane Irma lingers with expensive toll from big washout in Mount Dora

Hurricane Irma — the gift from Mother Nature that keeps on giving to the grateful people of Lake County.

Or not.

The hurricane mess is in the past for most Lake folks but not for Maria Andrews and Mount Dora. Last week, city workers were moving her out of her home near the top of the Dogwood Mountain Reserve subdivision, south of U.S. Highway 441 between Lake Gertrude and Donnelly Street, and into an apartment, where she could spend as much as six months on the taxpayer tab.

While she’s gone, contractors being hired by the city will be working to fix what looks like the mother of all washouts, the one that prevents her from driving her car to the driveway of her house.

“Data is king”: Analysis confirms projections of sea level rise models

No more computer models or projections. Finally – concrete data.

A scientific paper published in February may pave the way for a new conversation about rising sea levels using data instead of projections.

Gary Mitchum, co-author of the paper and Associate Dean at the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, says the research is more than just another explanation of the effects of global climate change.

“In science, data is king,” Mitchum said. “I’ve been telling people I think it’s a game-changer in that the discussion can now switch from is this just an error in the models, the computer models, or is it really in the data?’’

The paper immediately received international attention and went viral within the scientific community.

The team of researchers began compiling data in 1993. They released the statistics from satellite altimetry, the measurement of height or altitude from a satellite.

“We’re hoping that what this is going to do is allow people to stop worrying about the fact that it’s only the models seeing it, that we actually see it in the data now too and we can have a conversation about what we need to be doing,” Mitchum said.

Using data from 25 years of observation, researchers concluded that previous projections by computer models were accurate with 99 percent confidence. The global average sea level rose about 3 millimeters per year.

Now, the scientific community has recorded data that confirms these research methods.

Salmon farming in Florida? It's a possibility.

What was once a sprawling tomato field near Homestead is being turned over in stages for a new crop: Atlantic salmon.

Yes, you read that right. Salmon, fresh from Florida, the land of palm trees and gators.

Turns out the cold-water, protein-rich fish are well-suited for an innovative approach to salmon farming in the tropics, and southern Florida offers the ideal geological structure for this endeavor in aquaculture: the world’s largest land-raised salmon farm.

“Up to now, what has been holding up salmon from growing and feeding the world is that it has been stuck at the ends of the Earth and has be to be flown around. We’re changing that,” said José Prado, chief financial officer of Atlantic Sapphire, the Norwegian company that is constructing a $130-million, 380,000-square-foot facility to hatch, grow and process salmon — all on land. “We call it world-class local.”