Current News Items (within the last 30 days)
SJRWMD: Get ready for hurricane season
Hurricane season preparation tips, storm contacts, flood information available in one location
PALATKA – Hurricane season officially begins June 1 and the St. Johns River Water Management District has added valuable information to its website to assist the public and local governments access resources before, during and after severe storm events.
The web pages (floridaswater.com/storm) include links to flood statements and warnings, river stage and flooding data, and local government emergency contacts. Also included are links to the National Weather Service, Florida Division of Emergency Management and the U.S. Geological Survey's interactive map of current conditions in the state.
Florida's many waterways and extensive coastline make the state especially vulnerable to floods. When hurricanes and other storms bring high volumes of rain in short periods of time, flooding can result.
The District works closely with local governments year-round to develop improved flood management plans, and to help communities establish and implement strategies to deal with floods once they occur. Local governments are the primary entities responsible for implementing state-of-emergency declarations, evacuations and rescue efforts during flood-related disasters.
Partnerships between the public and government entities are necessary to minimize flooding impacts, protect personal property and assist flood victims during and after storms.
In the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, the District assists local governments by issuing emergency orders that allow for the pumping of water to alleviate flooding when public health and safety are at risk. The District also issues emergency orders to authorize repair, replacement or restoration of public and private property.
To prepare for hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, the public can protect themselves and their property by:
- Keeping debris out of storm drains and ditches
- Reporting clogged ditches to local governments
- Cleaning out gutters and extending downspouts at least four feet from the home
- Building up the ground around the home to promote drainage away from the foundation
- Obtaining flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program
Governor approves $32 million in water projects; vetoes total of $27.3 million
TALLAHASSEE – Florida governor Rick Scott used his line-item veto authority to veto $368 million in spending from Florida's 2013-2014 budget, including a number of projects related to wastewater and stormwater infrastructure and water resource protection. These included:
- Bonita Springs ‐ Oak Creek Restoration ‐ Sediment & Exotic Plant Removal, $250,000
- Charlotte County ‐ Regional Reclaimed Water Expansion ‐ Phase 2, $500,000
- DeSoto County ‐ Lettuce Lake/Oak Haven MH Park Utility MCL Water Supply Improvement Projec,t $90,000
- DeSoto County ‐ Lake Suzy Utility Wastewater Treatment Facility Improvements, $350,000
- LaBelle ‐ Wastewater Recycle Project, $1,812,500
- Lake County ‐ Umatilla Sewer System, $1,225,000
- Lakeland ‐ Skyview Water and Wastewater System Modification, $3,750,000
- Manatee County ‐ Wastewater Clarifier Retrofit ‐ Southwest Water Reclamation Facility, $1,000,000
- St. Johns River Restoration and Economic Impact Study, $7,000,000
- Tampa ‐ Met West Ditch Stormwater Project, $125,000
For a complete list of the approved and vetoed water projects, see the link below.
Water project vetoed/approved list (prepared by The Florida Current/LobbyTools)
Water projects left off Florida TaxWatch's "turkey" list this year
By Bruce Ritchie
Florida TaxWatch spared local water projects totaling $59.4 million from its list of "turkeys" in Legislature's 2013-14 state budget.
The group each year lists projects that it says were placed in the budget without proper public review and debate. The group says it doesn't condemn the projects but it does request that the governor consider them for vetoes.
In 2011, Scott vetoed more than $600 million of what he described as "special interest earmarks" including $16.5 million in water projects.
Last year, Florida TaxWatch labeled as turkeys 23 local water projects totaling $19 million. Scott eventually vetoed $12.6 million in water projects.
TaxWatch last year also called on the Legislature to establish a review process for water projects and the Legislature did so, said Kurt Wenner, the group's vice president for tax research.
Continued on The Florida Current...
Reservoirs language stripped from federal bill while Florida groups support alternative approach
By Bruce Ritchie
Georgia's U.S. senators have stripped from a bill language apparently supported by Gov. Rick Scott to require congressional approval of water for the Lake Lanier reservoir north of Atlanta.
Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been fighting in federal court over water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system since 1990. Cities, farmers and industry upstream depend on the water while Florida says it needs flow to support fish and wildlife in the Apalachicola River and the seafood industry in Apalachicola Bay.
Continued on The Florida Current...
USGS Study: Spring 2012 earliest on record
March 2012 set records for warm temperatures that promoted early leafing and flowering across large areas of the United States. A team of scientists at the USA National Phenology Network, which is sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey, have published a study which shows that 2012 was the earliest spring over the 48 U.S. states since 1900 when systematic weather data began to be available for the entire area.
Phenology is the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, especially their timing and relationships with weather and climate. Assessing the severity and impacts of such extreme climatic events, either in the past or as they happen, requires consistent indicators of variability and change that can be mapped both nationally and historically.
The USA National Phenology Network provides a suite of "spring indices" based on the accumulated warmth needed to end dormancy and initiate growth in many native and cultivated plants. These complex, evidence-based algorithms can be calculated for any weather station that records daily maximum and minimum temperatures. Spring indices are independently validated using historical observations of leafing and flowering in lilac and honeysuckle nationwide.
The historical trend of spring indices suggests that the 2012 growing season advanced as much as 20-30 days in the East and Midwest from the 1900-2012 long-term mean.
"The results of this study clearly demonstrate the great importance of long-term monitoring of natural processes. A long record allows us to identify patterns of change that we might otherwise miss," said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS Director.
Today the response of vegetation to temperature and precipitation can be readily observed across wide areas by Earth-observing satellites at intervals of only a few days. USGS scientist Julio Betancourt, a co-author of the study, noted, "Indicators such as spring indices and satellite-based evaluations of vegetation growth will become essential tools for assessing climate variability and change and their impacts."
Satellite data show that the cumulative effects of the unusually early 2012 spring were most pronounced across the Corn Belt, the western Great Lakes region, and the northeastern U.S.
The beneficial effects of spring's quick start in 2012 were subsequently offset by a late spring frost and summer drought. In fact, the unusually early spring combined with late frosts in April to produce a so-called "false spring" that damaged fruit trees across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions.
The study appears in EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union.
Read the study
USGS Study: Deficit in nation's aquifers accelerating
A new U.S. Geological Survey study documents that the Nation's aquifers are being drawn down at an accelerating rate.
Groundwater Depletion in the United States (1900-2008) comprehensively evaluates long-term cumulative depletion volumes in 40 separate aquifers (distinct underground water storage areas) in the United States, bringing together reliable information from previous references and from new analyses.
"Groundwater is one of the Nation's most important natural resources. It provides drinking water in both rural and urban communities. It supports irrigation and industry, sustains the flow of streams and rivers, and maintains ecosystems," said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS Director. "Because groundwater systems typically respond slowly to human actions, a long-term perspective is vital to manage this valuable resource in sustainable ways."
To outline the scale of groundwater depletion across the country, here are two startling facts drawn from the study's wealth of statistics. First, from 1900 to 2008, the Nation's aquifers, the natural stocks of water found under the land, decreased (were depleted) by more than twice the volume of water found in Lake Erie. Second, groundwater depletion in the U.S. in the years 2000-2008 can explain more than 2 percent of the observed global sea-level rise during that period.
Since 1950, the use of groundwater resources for agricultural, industrial, and municipal purposes has greatly expanded in the United States. When groundwater is withdrawn from subsurface storage faster than it is recharged by precipitation or other water sources, the result is groundwater depletion. The depletion of groundwater has many negative consequences, including land subsidence, reduced well yields, and diminished spring and stream flows.
While the rate of groundwater depletion across the country has increased markedly since about 1950, the maximum rates have occurred during the most recent period of the study (2000–2008), when the depletion rate averaged almost 25 cubic kilometers per year. For comparison, 9.2 cubic kilometers per year is the historical average calculated over the 1900–2008 timespan of the study.
One of the best known and most investigated aquifers in the U.S. is the High Plains (or Ogallala) aquifer. It underlies more than 170,000 square miles of the Nation's midsection and represents the principal source of water for irrigation and drinking in this major agricultural area. Substantial pumping of the High Plains aquifer for irrigation since the 1940s has resulted in large water-table declines that exceed 160 feet in places.
The study shows that, since 2000, depletion of the High Plains aquifer appears to be continuing at a high rate. The depletion during the last 8 years of record (2001–2008, inclusive) is about 32 percent of the cumulative depletion in this aquifer during the entire 20th century. The annual rate of depletion during this recent period averaged about 10.2 cubic kilometers, roughly 2 percent of the volume of water in Lake Erie.
Read the study
Florida Geological Survey receives national grant to map in NE Florida
Grant will increase knowledge of geology, which helps improve land-use planning in northeastern area of Florida
TALLAHASSEE – The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Geological Survey has been awarded $193,183 by the U.S Geological Survey to produce a detailed geologic map of a portion of northeast Florida. The STATEMAP grant is the fourth-highest award amount distributed nationwide this year for work that will begin in September and is expected to be publicly available for digital download by December 2014.
“The funding provided by the USGS allows us to produce a geologic map in support of the societal, economic and scientific welfare needs of Florida,” said STATEMAP Project Manager Rick Green. “Our goal is to make these findings readily available and accessible to the public.”
The benefits of this type of mapping include a more comprehensive understanding of the distribution of rock, mineral and groundwater resources, including vulnerability of aquifers to contamination. These maps are also important in providing shallow subsurface geological information that can be used in understanding sinkholes and other geologic hazards.
The mapping effort involves extensive field work over a 12 month period, including visits to accessible rock and sediment exposures in mines and other excavated areas, as well as natural exposures in rivers, streams, sinkholes and springs. To better understand the underlying geologic units, project staff inspect rock and sediment samples from hundreds of wells, including new wells drilled in support of the project to fill data gaps. Extensive data management and map making in a geographic information system platform is also involved.
This work is conducted under the STATEMAP component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, which serves to create a national geologic database that is accessible to the public. The STATEMAP Advisory Council, which is comprised of geologists and engineers in Florida, prioritized the St. Augustine quadrangle as the primary focus for this year’s work.
The approximately 2,000 square mile area was approved due to its location adjacent to current project mapping underway in the Daytona Beach area, as well as an additional project being conducted along the northeast coast of Florida funded by the National Park Service and Florida Geological Survey. This will allow the Florida Geological Survey to maximize its resources and expand upon existing data.
Since its inception in 1994, this component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program has funded more than $4.6 million in support of mapping to benefit Florida’s residents and environment, covering an area of more than 13,000 square miles.
Data gathered by the STATEMAP program is also used by other agencies in Florida. The Florida Department of Transportation used information from mapped STATEMAP projects for an assessment of strategic aggregate reserves in the state and to develop a better understanding of the geology in support of projects, such as the Florida Future Corridors program.
The maps are published annually and released in segments online.
Source: Florida DEP news release
Decades-old nitrate found to affect stream water quality
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hydrologic researchers have found that the movement of nitrate through groundwater to streams can take decades to occur. This long lag time means that changes in the use of nitrogen-based fertilizer (the typical source of nitrate) — whether the change is initiation, adjustment, or cessation — may take decades to be fully observed in streams, according to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Water quality experts have been noting in recent years that nitrate trends in streams and rivers do not match their expectations based on reduced regional use of nitrogen-based fertilizer. The long travel times of groundwater discharge, like those documented in this study, have previously been suggested as the likely factor responsible for these observations.
"This study provides direct evidence that nitrate can take decades to travel from recharge at the land surface to discharge in streams," said Jerad Bales, acting USGS Associate Director for Water. "This is an important finding because long travel times will delay direct observation of the full effect of nutrient management strategies on stream quality."
Rivers and streams are fed by both groundwater held in underground aquifers and surface water from precipitation runoff. In low streamflow conditions, groundwater sources take a larger role.
In this study, USGS scientists closely examined surface and ground waters at seven study sites from across the nation to determine the portion of stream nitrate derived from groundwater. They found that most of the nitrate observed in streams located in groundwater-dominated watersheds was derived from groundwater sources. To determine the time it takes groundwater to reach a stream in a groundwater-dominated watershed, an age dating tracer study was conducted in the Tomorrow River in central Wisconsin. The findings indicated that decades-old nitrate-laden water was currently discharging to this stream. Consequently, base flow nitrate concentrations in this stream may be sustained for decades to come, regardless of current and future practices.
The slow release of groundwater nitrate to streams may also affect the water quality of large rivers. For example, increases in nitrate concentrations during low and moderate flows in large rivers in the Mississippi River Basin have been observed to be greater than or comparable to increases in nitrate concentrations during high flows. (See USGS website, Nitrate in the Mississippi River and its tributaries, 1980 to 2008.) These findings also suggest that increasing nitrate concentrations in groundwater are having a substantial effect on nitrate concentrations in rivers and nitrate transport to the Gulf of Mexico. Because nitrate moves slowly through groundwater to rivers, the full effect of management strategies designed to reduce nitrate movement to these rivers may not be seen for many years.
Learn more about the nitrate study on USGS.gov
2013 Orange County Hurricane Expo Provides Vital Preparedness Information
Orange County, FL – Orange County encourages residents to “Keep Calm and Prepare” this hurricane season which begins June 1 by taking steps to be ready and reduce their risk of damage. Orange County can help residents prepare during the 2013 Hurricane Expo. The free one-day event will offer preparedness information, live demonstrations and hands-on training at the Central Florida Fairgrounds. Free preparedness items like weather radios and first aid kits will be distributed while supplies last.
||Orange County Hurricane Expo 2013
||Central Florida Fairgrounds, Craft Building
4603 W Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32808
||Saturday, June 1, 2013, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
||Free event offers preparedness information,
demonstrations and training.
Attendees will learn from emergency response and recovery experts from the National Weather Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency who will answer questions and provide information on how to survive and deal with floods, high wind damage and property loss.
“We know those who have a hurricane plan do much better than those who don't,” said Orange County Emergency Manager Dave Freeman. “Our goal is to provide the information and tools residents need so they can better prepare and protect themselves and their property from the sometimes devastating effects a hurricane can have on their lives.”
Participants will also learn how to “track” storms, pack a disaster kit, administer first aid, perform compression only CPR and prepare an emergency plan for their pets.
Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30, 2013.
2013 Hurricane Preparedness Guide
Up to 375 USGS flood gauges to turn off because of fund cuts
Just in time for the spring flood season, the federal sequester is threatening to shut off funding for hundreds of stream gauges used by the U.S. Geological Survey to predict and monitor flood levels across the country.
"The USGS will discontinue operation of up to 375 stream gauges nationwide due to budget cuts as a result of sequestration," the USGS notes on its website. Additional stream gauges may be affected if USGS partners at state and local agencies reduce their funding support.
USGS is quick to point out, though, they won't take out of service the gauges now being used to monitor the heavy floods soaking the Midwest. Robert Mason, deputy chief of the USGS Office of Surface Water, says the USGS plans to prioritize those gauges that are used by the National Weather Service for forecasting, so that the impact of the cuts is minimized.
In all, a total of 682 gauges have some level of funding issues (some of the gauges may not be shut off entirely). The USGS, which operates about 95% of the gauges, is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Continued in USA Today online...
Legislators prepare for potential ‘fracking’ in Florida
By Mary Ellen Klas and Curtis Morgan
TALLAHASSEE – No one knows if Florida is going to be the next frontier for the new generation of oil and gas drilling known as fracking, but state legislators say — just in case — it’s time to write rules to require disclosure of the controversial technology.
The Florida House on Wednesday is expected to pass a bill that will require companies to disclose what chemicals they use when they explore for oil and gas using the controversial extraction process.
Fracking uses hydraulic fracturing technology to inject water, sand and chemicals underground to create fractures in rock formations. Oil and gas is released through the fissures and is captured by wells, built at the sites. Environmentalists warn that the chemical makeup of the fluid that is pumped into the ground could contaminate groundwater and release harmful pollutants, such as methane, into the air.
Continued in the Bradenton Herald online...
EPA awards $198K to Central Florida Regional Planning Council for brownfields sites
ATLANTA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on April 25th that it plans to award the Central Florida Regional Planning Council (CFRPC) with a brownfield grant to help them plan for the assessment, clean up and reuse of Brownfields properties. This funding is part of the Brownfields Area-Wide Planning program, which aims to help communities develop area-wide plans and specific implementation strategies for integrating the cleanup and reuse of brownfield sites into neighborhood revitalization efforts.
“EPA is certainly excited about the opportunity for communities in the Southeast Region to realize sustainable environmental results,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator, Gwen Keyes Fleming. “Through EPA’s Brownfields Program we support not just environmental revitalization but economic revitalization.”
EPA has selected the Central Florida Regional Planning Council as a Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant recipient. CFRPC will work with the community, area businesses, the City of Lakeland and Polk County to develop an area-wide plan and implementation strategy for a brownfields property on the southeast shore of Lake Parker. Under this grant, CFRPC will carry out research, inventory existing conditions, effectively involve the community and other stakeholders to identify priorities, and identify the resources needed to bring the plan to fruition. Key partners who will work with the CFRPC are the City of Lakeland, Polk County, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Combee Area Revitalization Effort, and various other community groups.
Read the full EPA news release