An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Seminole County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

How the Supreme Court’s wetlands ruling could impact pollution, flooding

The Supreme Court’s decision to curb federal regulations for wetlands could have far-reaching implications for America’s water.

The ruling is expected to open the nation up to more water pollution, experts say. And not only that: They say it could also make the country more vulnerable to floods.

The court Thursday narrowed the federal government’s authority to regulate wetlands, saying it only has jurisdiction over those that have a “continuous surface connection” with other regulated waters such as lakes or rivers.

In practice, this will mean that wetlands that don’t meet this definition will be open to development, unless they are in a state that has its own requirements.

“People will no longer need a permit to fill the wetlands,” Mark Ryan, a former Clean Water Act litigation specialist at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told The Hill on Thursday.

“If you’re a developer and you buy a piece of farmland that had a bunch of wetlands on it that weren’t right next to the river … you could just go out and start filling those wetlands now. You don’t need a permit unless the state requires it,” Ryan said.

A significant number of wetlands are expected to be impacted by the ruling.

SCOTUS sinks Clean Water Act protection for 51% of U.S. waters

'Wetlands that are separate from traditional navigable waters cannot be considered part of those waters.'

A Supreme Court ruling that on its face just allows an Idaho couple to build a home near a lake goes in fact much further than that, eliminating Clean Water Act (CWA) coverage to 51% of previously protected U.S. wetlands.

“Wetlands that are separate from traditional navigable waters cannot be considered part of those waters, even if they are located nearby,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

“In addition, it would be odd indeed if Congress had tucked an important expansion to the reach of the CWA into convoluted language in a relatively obscure provision concerning state permitting programs.”

In this case, a road bisects the wetlands in question, and the house was going in on the part of the wetlands cut off from the rest. The Court ruled that the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction ended at the road. The water has to be visible and contiguous to be covered by the law.

Water management districts want visitors to enjoy Florida’s springs and rivers responsibly

Here are some reminders to take special care if you're planning to enjoy Florida's nature this weekend.

Before Memorial Day Weekend and the unofficial start of summer, Florida’s water management districts want to remind visitors to springs and rivers to leave no litter and protect nature.

Troy Roberts with the Suwannee River Water Management District said trash takes away from an area’s natural beauty. It is also harmful to plants, animals, and water quality.

“Make sure you’re taking your trash back with you,” Roberts said. “Take care of these natural wonders that we have like you would your own house.”

Roberts added it is also important to protect submerged aquatic vegetation or seagrass, which provides food and habitat, and can serve as an indicator of the health of a system.

“When people are out swimming or floating, they need to stay close to the surface of the water and they’re not trampling the vegetation,” he said. “Walking on it can uproot it, can damage it. Even walking in the sandy areas can prevent new growth in those areas.”

Vivianna Bendixson with the Southwest Florida Water Management District echoed that advice.

“We want boaters and kayakers to enjoy their time on the river, but we want them to do it while reducing their impact to the river,” she said.

Bendixson added that boaters should not moor along the river’s shore, because that contributes to shoreline erosion and the degradation of the system’s overall health.

Water management districts will promote being good stewards of the environment on social media and at their sites throughout the summer when springs see more visitors.

Florida environment groups, businesses urge DeSantis to veto ‘attack’ on fertilizer bans

A DeSantis veto would save important measures to curb urban pollution, the groups urged.

Dozens of Florida businesses and environmental organizations are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a budget item that could curtail local fertilizer ordinances and stymie future water quality efforts.

A coalition of 55 groups from across the Sunshine State, including Alachua County commissioners, wrote a letter to DeSantis late last week urging he use a line-item veto to slash a proposed $250,000 appropriation for University of Florida researchers to study the impact of preempting local fertilizer regulations for the next year.

A local fertilizer ordinance — like the one Pinellas County initiates from June through September — aims to prevent polluted, nutrient-heavy water from flowing off lawns and parks during Florida’s rainy season. That runoff can fuel toxic blue-green algae and red tide blooms that plague Florida’s cherished coastlines and cost the state millions in missed tourism dollars.

More than 100 municipalities across Florida, including more than 20 local governments in Pinellas, have used rainy season fertilizer bans as a tool to prevent souring the state’s waters.

St. Johns Riverkeeper launching expedition to investigate submerged aquatic vegetation loss

ST. JOHNS COUNTY – The St. Johns Riverkeeper is launching a multi-day expedition to investigate the lost grasses of the St. Johns River. The mission is to raise awareness about the fragile state of the river and demonstrate the need for urgent action.

Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) are an essential indicator of river health and are vital to the continuation of a healthy river ecosystem.

SAVs are sources of refuge, oxygen, habitat and food for many aquatic species including the West Indian Manatee.

Yet, scientists have concluded that most SAVs have disappeared in the lower St. Johns River. Estimates put the loss as high as 99 percent.

SAVs do periodically decline as a result of droughts or hurricanes, but the grasses typically begin to bounce back within a few years. However, this time is different. The grasses in the St. Johns have not returned since Hurricane Irma. The question is why?

What is preventing the regrowth of the SAV?

Government environment agencies have offered several possible reasons, but consensus has not been reached and more needs to be done.

As a result, St. Johns Riverkeeper is launching a multi-day expedition to investigate the case of the lost grasses.

The team will spend several days on the water monitoring the most threatened habitat of the St. Johns River. They will patrol an 80-mile stretch of the river between Doctors lake and Lake George in search of remaining SAV beds.

The hope is to answer questions on the massive decline of SAVs and to find solutions to restore the vital habitat.

Orange County Dept. of Health issues Health Caution for Lake Burkett-Center

FDOH logo

May 12, 2023

ORLANDO – The Florida Department of Health in Orange County has issued a Health Caution for the presence of blue-green algae in Lake Burkett – Center. This is in response to a site visit and water sample taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on 05/11/2023. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Burkett–Center.

Blooms have the potential to produce toxins, and what triggers them to begin doing so remains poorly understood. For this reason, it is important to exercise caution, as bloom conditions are dynamic and could change at any time. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) collects algae samples from reported bloom locations for toxin analysis. Once completed, the results will be posted on the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard, and can also be viewed on the Protecting Florida Together website, where you can sign up to be notified of the latest conditions.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • We do not recommend that you swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom
  • Avoid getting water in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • You should keep pets and livestock away from the waters in this location
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well
  • You should not eat shellfish from this location

Check for water quality updates on the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard.

Caught on camera: City crew’s robot finds alligator in stormwater pipe

OVIEDO – Footage captured Friday by a stormwater crew using a wheeled robotic camera found something lurking deep inside a city pipe.

The video, released by the Oviedo City Government, shows the moment the robot's camera came lens-to-face with an alligator.

Workers were trying to investigate "anomalies" in the pipe under the road after a number of potholes started to appear, a news release states.

In the video, as the camera travels further down the pipe, two glowing eyes are seen from far away.

The crew first thought they belonged to a toad, the release says, before the animal turned to reveal its true size.

Most likely confused, the roughly five-foot-long alligator backs up until the robot crashes into it.

The animal then turns its tail and darts away, still being chased by the crew's rolling camera.

Lake Monroe basin study shows 24 areas of concern

Over the past few months Seminole County officials have been updating residents on potential fixes for insufficient drainage areas along certain basins.

The Lake Monroe basin study began in 2020, but has since been amplified following last year's hurricanes Ian and Nicole, which caused severe flooding.

Experts say it is important to note that the downtown Sanford portion of Lake Monroe that saw major flooding is not part of the study.

Officials say the study found 24 areas of concern that have insufficient drainage.

Area residents say flooding is a concern.

“We are at a low point right now,” said Joe McKinney, who lives on a boat on Lake Monroe. “I haven’t seen it much lower than that. high point is it gets to the seawall up here.”

He said it was rough riding out Hurricane Ian last year.

“It was really rocky,” McKinney said. “The water, of course, was coming up real quick, and you were just rocking back and forth.”

Ian left its mark in more ways than one. Pilings and trees with water lines are still visible from when the waters were at flood levels.

During the storm, water entered Lake Monroe from communities like Judy McMickle’s, who said it took days for the water on her property to eventually find its way to Lake Monroe. Her problem, however, is it doesn’t take a hurricane to see flooding in her part of the county off Michigan Avenue