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June 17, 2023 Weekly Newsletter


Recently, there has been discussion that the manatee deaths from boatstrikes in Indian River County are on the rise. Data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission do not support that statement. Since the introduction of the “Go Slow. Manatee Zone” the number of manatee deaths by watercraft has been steadily decreasing both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the total. In 2021 and 2022, years during which almost 2,000 manatees died, the percentage of deaths by watercraft across the state has held steady at 9.5 percent. The percentage that has occurred in Indian River County was 0.5%.


Looking to the yearly preliminary data through 6/02/23, the total number of manatee boatstrike deaths across the State is 40 (with none in Indian River County). The counties with historically high yearly deaths are Brevard, Lee, and Pinellas. In 2021, 70.2% of the yearly total manatee deaths had occurred by the end of May. In 2022 the number for the same period was 58.8%. Using these 40 deaths in the first five months of 2023 as a basis, the total predicted death rate due to boatstrikes would be 54 by the end of 2023 for the entire state. If this projection holds, the total death count from boatstrikes will thankfully be well below the figures of 104 and 76 from 2021 and 2022, respectively.


Bottom line: boats, when operated responsibly, are not the threat. The most effective way to prevent manatee extinction is by cleaning up our waters.


 

Editor's Note: Please be advised that our weekly newsletter will take a brief hiatus next week (on June 24) as our staff enjoys some well-deserved vacation time. We're excited to reconnect with you when we resume our regular schedule on July 1!


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Last week, we discussed HB 1379/SB 1632. Now, we've got some more info straight from the FDEP. It's clear this bill could really help the Indian River Lagoon over time. But that doesn't mean we can just kick back and relax! There's always more to be done, and we're not about to stop fighting.


 

News Impacting Indian River County

DOH in Indian River County issues toxic algae health alert for St. Johns River near BCL (TCPalm) - The Florida Department of Health in Indian River County has issued a health alert due to toxic algae, specifically cyanobacteria or "blue-green algae," in the St. Johns River near Blue Cypress Lake. The algae contains the toxin microcystin, which measured 0.54 parts per billion in water samples. The public is advised to avoid contact with the algae, as exposure can be hazardous to humans, pets, and wildlife. Precautions include not drinking, swimming, or boating in affected waters and keeping pets away from the area. The alert provides contact information for reporting algal blooms and seeking further assistance.


“In Full Bloom” Documentation Lake Okeechobee, Early June 2023 (Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch) - Areal photography of Lake O and the algae there. There is a news video below from WPTV if you want to see more about the algae on the lake.


Are manatees the canary In the environmental coal mine? (Chronicle Online) - The article highlights the alarming number of manatee deaths in Florida, attributing them to environmental degradation caused by factors such as nutrient pollution, algae blooms, and oxygen depletion, while emphasizing the need for proactive environmental restoration efforts to protect these endangered creatures.


The Race to Save Florida’s Manatees (Smithsonian) - The race to save Florida's manatees is examined, focusing on the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership's efforts to rescue and rehabilitate injured manatees, while also addressing the threats they face from boat strikes, red tide, seagrass decline, and water pollution, and emphasizing the need for conservation measures and sustainable practices to protect these endangered marine mammals.


DeSantis signs $116.5 billion budget, slashes $511 million (Orlando Sentinel) - If you read one article on the state's budget, I'd suggest this one. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the $116.5 billion state budget for 2023-24, which includes a record-high of $15.3 billion in state reserves but also $511 million in vetoed projects.


DeSantis to pause bans on fertilizer. Advocates worry it’ll worsen water woes (Miami Herald) - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved funding for various environmental projects but did not use his line-item veto power to remove a measure that suspends the creation of new city and county fertilizer bans and funds a study to evaluate their effectiveness, causing concern among environmentalists who believe the move weakens water quality protections in the state.


If Thurlow-Lippisch loses seat on SFWMD board, polluters win (Vote Water) - The potential removal of Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch from the South Florida Water Management District's Governing Board is examined, highlighting the influence of politics and industry on her reappointment and emphasizing the implications for clean water in Florida.


El Nino Likely To Increase Toxic Algae On Florida Waterways, Says NOAA (Patch) - El Niño's arrival in Florida is expected to increase toxic blue-green algae, posing risks to public health and the environment, prompting the implementation of innovative solutions to combat harmful algal blooms.


Coast Guard sets new Stuart bridge schedule for boaters. Will FEC, Brightline comply? (TCPalm) - The Coast Guard has announced a temporary new test schedule for the railroad bridge crossing the St. Lucie River in Stuart, keeping it open to boaters for at least 15 minutes twice an hour instead of being in the down position for up to 45 minutes each hour, with the change likely to impact Brightline's planned passenger train service, FEC freight service, and various boat traffic on the Okeechobee Waterway.


Seaweed heading to Florida may have flesh-eating bacteria (OC Register) - The abundance of seaweed washing up on Florida's shores has raised concerns as researchers from Florida Atlantic University discovered flesh-eating bacteria, known as Vibrio, living on microplastics and sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean, emphasizing the need to avoid contact with seaweed, prevent exposure of open wounds to seawater, and exercise caution when consuming raw fish to avoid potential infections and health risks associated with the bacteria.


Florida lawmakers propose about $1 billion in land conservation for the next fiscal year (WUSF News) - Florida lawmakers have proposed allocating approximately $1 billion in land conservation funds for the upcoming fiscal year, including $100 million for Florida Forever, $100 million for conservation easements on agricultural lands, and $800 million for the Ocala to Osceola Wildlife Corridor, although some express concerns about the geographic restrictions of the latter.


‘Seems like bullying to me’: Investors took over their condo boards. Costs skyrocketed (Miami Herald) - Investors taking over condo boards in South Florida, particularly in Miami Beach's North Beach neighborhood, are significantly increasing costs for condo owners, raising concerns about inflated fees and potential ulterior motives behind the takeovers.


Toxic future: Why Lake O algae blooms will return every single year (Vote Water) - Lake Okeechobee's recurring toxic algal blooms, caused by nutrient runoff from fertilizers and exacerbated by warm water and sunlight, will continue to plague the lake due to decades of accumulated phosphorus and nitrogen, unless effective measures are taken to address the pollution at its source through improved stormwater management and stricter regulations on farm runoff.


Florida fishing: Snapper fishing has been excellent offshore and inshore (TCPalm) - The snapper fishing off the coast of Florida, particularly on the Treasure Coast, has been excellent with opportunities to catch mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, and lane snapper using various baits and techniques, providing a great option for Father's Day fishing outings.


 

According to the latest report from South Florida Water Management, 85-90% of Lake Okeechobee is covered with blue green algae blooms, with 13 of the 22 samples testing positive for microcystin toxins. Source: WPTV


 

Some still think this is just another "law" to help protect Florida waters. It isn't. It's above and beyond the reach of politics and special interests. It's fundamental clarity of what's MORE important to Floridians. Nothing else comes close -- nothing else CAN come close. This is our chance to make things right.


 

Other News

Piney Point pollution spread farther than first thought, new study shows (Tampa Bay Times) - New research reveals that the polluted water from the Piney Point wastewater disaster in 2021 spread further than initially thought, reaching waters near Tarpon Springs, more than 30 miles away from Tampa Bay, emphasizing the significant environmental impact and the connection between the wastewater discharge and red tide and algal blooms in the region, according to a study by the University of Florida and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.


The Price of Plenty (WUFT) - "The Price of Plenty" is a collaborative reporting project by the University of Florida and the University of Missouri that explores the significant impact of chemical fertilizers on food production, human health, and the environment, shedding light on the industry's political power, pollution issues, and potential solutions for a more sustainable future.


Salt Marsh Initiative Preserving Georgia's Coastal Landscapes (Coastal News Today) - The South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative has unveiled a plan to preserve one million acres of salt marshes from North Carolina to East Central Florida, aiming to combat climate change, protect historical sites, and support the economy, as salt marshes are crucial for carbon sequestration and provide significant protection against storm surge and flooding, but are threatened by rising sea levels and unsustainable development.


Florida lawmaker sponsored ‘radioactive roads’ bill. Mosaic threw him a fundraiser. (Tampa Bay Times) - Tampa-based fertilizer company Mosaic hosted and paid for a fundraising event for Florida state lawmaker Rep. Lawrence McClure, who sponsored the "radioactive roads" bill allowing the use of mildly radioactive phosphogypsum in road construction, a bill supported by Mosaic; critics are urging Governor Ron DeSantis to veto the bill, citing potential health risks and Mosaic profiting from waste, while McClure denied any connection between the fundraiser and the bill.


Florida city fights its own citizens over clean water (Florida Phoenix) - The city council of Titusville, Florida, is refusing to certify the election results of a referendum in which the voters overwhelmingly approved making the right to clean water a part of the city's charter, leading to a legal battle as the city tries to block the implementation of the measure; the city has a history of pollution and sewage spills that have severely impacted the Indian River Lagoon, and residents are frustrated with the city's negligence and lack of action in addressing the ecological degradation.


Saving Our Springs: A day with the underwater gardeners at Sea and Shoreline (ABC Action News) - Sea & Shoreline, an organization dedicated to restoring natural springs, has successfully revitalized ecosystems by planting eelgrass and clearing out muck, allowing the water to filter pollutants and sustain itself, exemplified by their restoration work in Crystal River and upcoming project in Kings Bay, providing hope for the future of Florida's springs.


After 100 days, Florida scientist ‘Dr Deep Sea’ resurfaces after breaking record for living underwater (CNN) - Associate university professor Dr. Joseph Dituri, also known as "Dr. Deep Sea," resurfaces after spending 100 days living underwater at Jules' Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida, setting a new world record and conducting ocean conservation research while studying the effects of compression on the human body.


Miami's hearty urban coral could help ailing reef (WLRN) - Miami's urban coral, resilient in the face of pollution and adverse conditions near Port Miami, could hold the key to healing ailing reefs impacted by climate change, according to a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


 

The Fun at the End of the Newsletter


Sunbathers and holidaymakers were in for a "bear-y" big surprise this past weekend when a fuzzy, uninvited guest decided to hit the waves at a bustling Florida beach. Our adventurous ursine friend, a young black bear, was seen taking the plunge over in Destin. Quite the social media sensation, this beach-loving bear quickly made a splash online as videos of his rare, coastal escapade began to circulate.


 

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