Florida Notes

US Corps, SFWMD take on scoping meetings

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) recently completed two National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) meetings to receive public input for scoping the Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Lake Okeechobee Component A Reservoir (LOCAR). 

The SFWMD is conducting the studies and exploring opportunities for above-ground water storage north of Lake Okeechobee. 

The study area covers a large portion of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed north of the lake itself and will provide ecological benefits to the lake and northern estuaries. 

The proposed LOCAR is intended to store excess water in the northern watersheds and release the excess at times when it is beneficial for the region. The increased storage capacity is anticipated to reduce the duration and frequency of high and low water levels in Lake Okeechobee, which are harmful to the lake’s ecology. 

The reservoir also will help reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries frequently impacted by related algal blooms.

USGS Revises Florida Aquifer System Framework

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has issued Revised Framework for Hydrogeology of Floridan Aquifer, the principal source of freshwater for agricultural irrigation, industrial, mining, commercial, and public supply in Florida and southeast Georgia. 

The publication provides an update of the hydrogeologic framework of the Floridan aquifer system underlying Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. 

This is the first update of the framework in more than 30 years and it incorporates new borehole data showing a detailed conceptual model that describes the major and minor units and zones of the system. 

The update will allow authorities and resource managers to more accurately monitor aquifers, improving their ability to protect the resource and determine the near- and long-term availability of groundwater. 

In addition to the USGS, the Geological Surveys of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina; the South Florida, Southwest Florida, St Johns River, Suwannee River, and Northwest Florida Water Management Districts; and numerous other state and local agencies provided input for the revision.

The full revised report is available at:  https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/pp1807

10 Tips to Save Water for Water Conservation Month

The SFWMD has recently shared 10 easy-to-follow tips on how to reduce monthly water bills and conserve hundreds of gallons of water both indoors and outdoors. 

One of the main culprits of water waste, as highlighted by the SFWMD, is leaks, which can occur both inside and outside of your home. The District suggests using your water meter to identify any leaks.

To do so, turn off all faucets and water-using appliances, and make sure that nobody uses any water during the testing period. Wait for the hot water heater and ice cube makers to refill. Go to your water meter and take note of the current reading. Wait 30 minutes, making sure that no water is used during this time. Afterward, read the meter again. If you notice any changes in the reading, it is likely that you have a leak that needs fixing.

For more information, visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Conservation.

Nature Article Finds Acceleration of U.S. Southeast and Gulf Coast Sea-level Rise Amplified by Internal Climate Variability

As per an article published by Nature, there is evidence indicating that there has been a rise in the global mean sea level (MSL) acceleration since the 1960s. However, detecting this phenomenon at the local level has been a challenge due to the natural variations in the rate of MSL change. 

A recent report has studied tide gauge records along the U.S. Southeast and Gulf coasts, and it has been found that there is an unprecedented MSL acceleration of over 10 mm per year since 2010. 

This acceleration is the highest in at least 120 years. The report attributes this acceleration to an ocean dynamic signal that surpasses the response from historical climate model simulations. The study’s implications are significant in the context of predicting the impact of rising sea levels on coastal communities and infrastructure. 

The entire article may be read here: www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-37649-9

St Johns River WMD Launches Redesigned General Information Permitting Webpage

The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) has recently introduced an updated landing page on their website to provide the public with more comprehensive information about this permitting program. The new landing page features a photo-based interface that offers easy access to an overview of the permitting groups work. However, it’s important to note that this new website is not designed to replace the existing ePermit portal that is used for applying or tracking permits. 

The previous related URLs are still available, and users can access them by visiting www.sjrwmd.com/permitting 

One of the most useful features of the newly added website is its map-based interactive tool. This tool allows visitors to search for the latest permits by city, county, or specific address. The permits are color-coded with dots that provide a high-level overview of the permit, and users also have the option to view additional details. This interactive tool is especially helpful for those who want to stay informed about the latest permits in their area.

Overall, the SJRWMD’s new landing page is a welcome improvement in terms of user experience. It provides a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate, and it offers more comprehensive information about the permitting program.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Supports Development of Florida Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund Restoration Strategy 

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has announced an award of up to $4.5 million to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and other entities in Florida to support the development and implementation of programs and projects under the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.

The integrated, far-reaching planning effort is intended to serve as a framework to restore and conserve Florida’s Gulf Coast natural resources. The team will identify priority projects for future funding consideration from NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. The projects receiving funding will remedy harm or reduce the risk of future harm to natural resources that were affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

NFWF recalls a U.S. District Court approved two plea agreements resolving certain criminal charges against BP and Transocean related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2013. Provisions within the plea agreements direct a total of $2.5 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation over a five-year period. 

From that amount, NFWF will receive more than $356 million for projects to protect or restore natural resources in Florida. 

To learn more, visit: www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwater-horizon

SFWMD Conducts Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan Stakeholder Meetings 

The South Florida Water Management District has announced the first public meeting seeking community input on the proposed 2023 Lower East Coast (LEC) Water Supply Plan Update. The Water Supply Plan will assess current and projected water needs in the LEC Planning Area through 2045, and includes Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties as well as most of Monroe County and the eastern portions of Hendry and Collier counties.

The meeting will be available digitally via ZOOM and the agenda and presentation will be posted to the Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan webpage before the meeting begins.

The virtual meeting will be live-streamed and recorded. At the conclusion of the meeting, the recording will be posted to the District’s YouTube page. The District will provide copies of the recording upon request.

Participation is strongly encouraged. Public input is critical to ensuring the water supply plan update addresses the needs of the region.

Outcry Results from Florida Legislature’s Last-Minute Addition of Fertilizer Management Ordinance Restrictions Added to State’s Budget Proposal 

The last-minute addition by the Florida Legislature of language restricting local governments from enacting restrictions for safe fertilizer management is being characterized as a serious blow to local water quality management efforts.

The Miami Waterkeeper’s blog states, “Without public testimony and hearings, lawmakers quietly inserted a measure into the state’s 2023-24 budget that kowtows to industry. This measure, slipped in at the 11th hour and only days before the 2023 State legislative session ends, prohibits local governments from “adopting or amending a fertilizer management ordinance” that would limit fertilizer application. This preemption of local rules harms local communities, economies, and ecosystems. The only benefactors: certain phosphate and fertilizer industries.”  

The Waterkeeper coordinated with Miami-Dade County for the passage of a county-wide fertilizer ordinance in 2021. 

The ordinance was strongly supported by Miami-Dade’s Mayor, Commissioners, and municipalities. 

The Miami-Dade fertilizer ordinance is among the most aggressive in the state and prohibits the use of fertilizer during the rainy season when fertilizers are almost immediately washed into stormwater collection systems.  

The fertilizers are then subsequently discharged into surface waters where they encourage algae blooms, seagrass die-off, and fish kills. 

The addition of this last-minute legislative language for 2023-24 will prohibit more than 100 local governments from adopting or amending fertilizer management ordinances. 

“Miami-Dade County’s strong fertilizer ordinance should be replicated in other locations. Instead, the legislature signaled a step backward in caring for our watersheds. While they say it’s only a year-long preemption, waterways around the state are tipping dangerously beyond the point of no return, and we must act now to save them.” Miami Waterkeeper notes.

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