Water-Related News

SWFWMD schedules prescribed fires in Polk, Lake and Pasco Counties

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Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s wildfire emergency in 2017.

That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns June through September at the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve, which includes the Green Swamp East Tract in Polk, Sumter and Lake counties, the Hampton Tract in Polk County, and the Green Swamp West Tract in Pasco County.

The Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve is located north of U.S. Highway 98 along Highway 471 and Rockridge Road between Lakeland and Dade City. Approximately 11,800 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants.
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat.
  • Maintaining access for public recreation.

View the video at the link below to see aerial footage from a prescribed fire in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve where District land management staff burned 320 acres.

New law gives Florida DEP gets new duties, including septic systems oversight

Under a new bill signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis Tuesday [June 30th], the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will take on new duties as an agency. Notably, those duties will include regulating the more than two and a half million septic systems in the state.

DeSantis, speaking to press in Juno Beach, said DEP is inheriting that responsibility from another state agency:

“The Florida Department of Health, which currently oversees the state septic system regulations, only contemplates the human health impacts of septic systems, but not their environmental impact,” the governor said. “This legislation transfers the authority of septic tank inspection from the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection, to make sure environmental harm by septic systems is finally accounted for.”

The legislation also directs the state DEP to update regulations that apply to storm water systems. The governor says emphasis in storm water regulation has historically been on preventing flooding, and has neglected taking into account environmental impact.

DeSantis told reporters storm water systems throughout the state are based on “outdated science,” and allow pollutants to enter Florida waterways.

Study: Florida has thousands more high-risk properties than FEMA says

Cape Coral and Tampa are the first and second most-exposed cities in the state, the disaster modeling found.

About 114,000 more Florida properties are at risk of flooding in a 100-year storm than the Federal Emergency Management Agency currently estimates, according to a model released Monday by a nonprofit arguing the country has undersold its vulnerability to disasters.

Tampa is the second-most exposed city in the state, says the First Street Foundation, with 43,111 properties that could flood in such an event — the seventh most at-risk in the country. No. 1 in the United States is Cape Coral, according to the analysis, with more than 90,000 at-risk properties.

The foundation’s flood tool is meant to highlight gaps in federal insurance maps and give home buyers what First Street promises is a better view of vulnerability. The data include property-specific reports that are accessible online for users to search their address — and will soon also be displayed on realtor.com, one of the largest real estate listing websites in the country, the company said.

FWC conducts aquatic plant control on Lake Harris

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will conduct aquatic plant control on the Little Lake Harris portion of Lake Harris the week of June 22, weather permitting. The FWC will treat invasive hydrilla in the Lake County waterbody in areas where it is encroaching on beneficial native submersed aquatic plants and may impact access to navigation.

To find out more about the herbicides being used and if there are any use restrictions associated with these treatments, visit MyFWC.com/Lake and click on the “Plant Mgmt Schedule of Operations” under the “Aquatic Plants” dropdown menu.

The FWC manages hydrilla on a lake-by-lake basis using a collaborative approach. The FWC makes management decisions after comparing the benefits that low to moderate levels of hydrilla can provide for fish and wildlife, and the desires of various stakeholder groups against the impact this invasive plant can have on native plant communities, access and navigation, flood control, and management costs.

For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual workplans, boat ramp information, and more, visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at MyFWC.com/Lake.

For more information about the treatment, contact Nathalie Visscher, FWC invasive plant management biologist, at 321-228-3364.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive reopens to vehicles

MAITLAND — The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is reopening to vehicular access on Friday, June 12, with updated hours and additional measures to keep both guests and wildlife safe.

People driving through are asked to remain in their vehicles. The North Shore property and trails continue to be open to hikers and bicyclists.

The drive will be open to vehicles Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays. The Lust Road gate will open at 7 a.m. and will close at 3 p.m. All vehicles must exit the drive by 5 p.m. This will allow time for restroom facilities to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized at the end of each day.

Restrooms will be available for emergency use. Visitors are strongly encouraged to bring their own drinking water, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes as there is no running water available. The one-way drive can take up to three hours to complete.

The district is asking that visitors stay in their vehicles to avoid group gatherings and keep traffic through the drive flowing efficiently. Please be courteous and allow others the opportunity to enjoy the sights by not lingering along the drive.

The district may limit capacity on the drive to avoid congestion or overcrowding.

The Lake Apopka North Shore is the most visited district property. Its abundant wildlife viewing and extraordinary bird-watching opportunities attracted more than 122,000 visitors to the wildlife drive in 2019.

The bird list at the 20,000-acre Lake Apopka North Shore includes 362 species and continues to grow. Other wildlife routinely seen include many American alligators, bobcats, otters, raccoons, armadillos and coyotes.

To learn about the district’s work to restore the lake and its wetlands, listen to our audio tour. In addition to wildlife, visitors returning to the drive may see construction crews and equipment, as this is an active water quality restoration area and projects are under way. In fact, scheduled road improvements were accelerated during the absence of vehicles from the drive.

Keep Lake Beautiful reminds residents of fertilizer restriction

TAVARES – In accordance with Lake County’s Fertilizer Ordinance, Keep Lake Beautiful (KLB) reminds residents of a fertilizer restriction. From June 1 through Sept. 30, the application of phosphorus and nitrogen to residential turf grass is prohibited.

This restriction is intended to help reduce nutrient loading from urban landscapes to our bodies of water. The ordinance was recommended by the Keep Lake Beautiful Committee and approved by the Lake County Board of County Commissioners in 2017.

Keep Lake Beautiful has an ongoing nutrient pollutant awareness campaign that gives residents the opportunity to pledge to keep a “Lake Friendly Lawn.” Residents who take the pledge promise to educate themselves on nutrient pollution and the fertilizer ordinance as well as to share the initiative with others and engage the community to help beautify Lake County. To view a video about steps to take for a Lake Friendly Lawn in the summer months, watch the PSA below.

Keep Lake Beautiful is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, a national nonprofit agency that focuses on building and maintaining vibrant communities. For more information on KLB, the fertilizer ordinance and to take the pledge, visit www.KeepLakeBeautiful.com.