Water-Related News

Ian could bring storm surge to Tampa Bay. Here’s what to know.

Florida’s west coast is uniquely vulnerable to storm surge.

As Hurricane Ian snakes toward the Sunshine State over the next few days, officials worry about a potentially dangerous storm surge along Florida’s west coast and panhandle.

Ian is expected to move over the warm waters of the Caribbean today and rapidly intensify before making its way into the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said Monday.

Forecasters said Ian could bring strong winds and dangerous storm surge along the west coast of Florida, including the Tampa Bay area beginning Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center has a hurricane watch and storm surge watch in place from Englewood to the Anclote River, which includes all of Tampa Bay.

As it moves around, Ian will leave many regions feeling its wrath, notably through storm surges. Here’s what you need to know about storm surge and its risks to Florida.

(This coverage is being provided by the Tampa Bay Times without a paywall as a public service.)

Do you know the main hazards caused by hurricanes and tropical weather?

As a potential hurricane looms for Southwest Florida and other places in Florida, the National Weather Service has determined that there are six main hazards caused by tropical weather systems.

According to the NWS: While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depression also can be devastating.

The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) are:

  1. Storm surge
  2. Flooding
  3. Winds
  4. Tornadoes
  5. Waves

Hillsborough County offices closed; staff focusing on Hurricane Ian emergency response

Hillsborough logo

Hillsborough County will Close All Offices and Facilities on Monday, Sept. 26.

All Hillsborough County offices and facilities will close Monday, Sept. 26 for regular operations to allow staff to focus on the emergency response to Hurricane Ian.

The closure includes all County libraries, parks, preserves, and recreation centers. All County public meetings have also been postponed. The Veterans Memorial Park open house scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 27, has been postponed. The open house will be rescheduled at a later date.

Hillsborough County Solid Waste will continue normal collection operations as scheduled and all Solid Waste facilities will remain open on Monday, Sept. 26.

Sandbags

Hillsborough County is making sandbags available again on Monday, Sept. 26 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at these locations:

Hillsborough County residents are eligible for a maximum of 10 sandbags per vehicle. Residents must show ID verifying they live in the County; a driver's license or utility bill will serve as proper identification.

Get Connected. Stay Alert.

For more information on Hillsborough County's response to Tropical Storm Ian, visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe and sign up for the HCFL Alert system. Additionally, you can follow Hillsborough County on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor for updates.

Residents without digital access are encouraged to call (813) 272-5900, the County's main information line, for information on Tropical Storm Ian or visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe.

Researchers will study how to best support Florida mangrove and coral reef ecosystems

At a time when developers are cutting down mangroves and building in such a way that's harming coral reefs, scientists will work with community members on solutions and policy changes.

A team of researchers led by the University of South Florida is getting $20 million from the National Science Foundation to develop solutions to protect and replenish coral reef and mangrove ecosystems.

Coral reefs and mangroves safeguard our coasts by reducing flooding, erosion and wave intensity during storms. They also provide habitat for marine life.

Mangroves serve as fish nurseries, and coral reefs help fish hideout, as well. So, in terms of the benefit to biodiversity, these are two really important ecosystems.

But mangroves are removed for development and coral reefs are threatened by pollution and rising temperatures.

Now, USF is collaborating with University of Miami, Boston University, Stanford University, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Virgin Islands and East Carolina University to combine natural features with artificial infrastructure to help these ecosystems thrive.

The scientists will look into hybrid models for coral reef and mangrove restoration, such as using concrete or cement to assist in mangrove planting so that they are protected and able to grow.

“If they're degraded systems or systems that have been destroyed in the past, are there ways in which one can restore those areas?” asked lead scientist Maya Trotz, a professor at USF’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“What would it cost? Who needs to be at the table to make sure that that intervention is protected and at work? How would you design those interventions so that local communities really have a say in what the design look like?”

She said over the next five years, her team will focus on Biscayne Bay in Miami because they want input from diverse community members.

"The idea of working closer with communities and collecting new information: Are there additional things that we should be considering when we start to talk about equity?" Trotz said.

They’ll also spend time analyzing the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Complex in Belize and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Workshops and meetings are planned in each location every year for residents to share their experiences and to add their input into conversations identifying solutions.

Although the research will be based out of South Florida and the Caribbean Sea, Trotz said the findings will translate to Florida's Gulf Coast and beyond.

“In Tampa Bay, we have mangroves, we have concerns about sea level rise, we have concerns about flooding and the risks to our properties,” Trotz said. “The lessons learned should be able to apply to any reef-lined or … mangrove-lined coastal system.”

Trotz so far has a team of about 20 but she’s currently hiring to double that number. The project is expected be completed by the end of August 2027.

“I hope that from this study, we have a better way to build research and action within communities to address issues related to protecting their coasts, that integrate nature-based solutions in a more holistic way than is probably done right now,” Trotz said.

“At a time when we're also seeing a lot of developments and a lot of development that is pretty much cutting these mangroves down, and that are building in such a way that they're harming coral reefs … it's sort of like, how do you amplify that importance to developers, and the persons who are part of that development before it's too late when we still do have some of these ecosystems in existence?”

The Little Manatee River is a step closer to receiving a federal ‘scenic’ designation

The designation would help preserve and protect the river from intrusive development, from its source in southern Hillsborough County to its mouth where it enters Tampa Bay.

The Little Manatee River is a step closer to being added to the National Park Service's Wild and Scenic River System.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation sponsored by Congressman Vern Buchanan that would designate the 51-mile river as scenic. Now, the Senate must approve the measure.

The designation would help preserve and protect the river from intrusive development, from its source in southern Hillsborough County to its mouth where it enters Tampa Bay. Recreational activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, boating and fishing would still be permitted.

“Protecting Florida’s beautiful lands and pristine waterways is one of my top priorities,” Buchanan said in a release. “Designating the Little Manatee River as ‘scenic’ will ensure that it is kept in its current, pristine condition for future generations to enjoy."

If the river receives the scenic designation, the National Park Service would develop a management plan that includes ways to preserve the existing natural environment.

Only two other rivers in Florida are recognized under the federal program: The Loxahatchee River near Jupiter and the Wekiva River north of Orlando.

“From canoeing and fishing for bass or panfish upriver to skiing and fishing for various saltwater species downriver, this natural treasure has much to offer in terms of recreation and scenic beauty," Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White said in a release. "I have spent a lifetime enjoying all that this river has to offer and my hope is to see it preserved for many more generations of Hillsborough County residents to enjoy."

Evacuation Zones vs. Flood Zones - Do you know the difference?

Hillsborough logo

Two different designations for two different purposes

Though they are often mistaken for each other, Flood Zones and Evacuation Zones are two very different things that measure very different conditions. So what's the difference? And when do you use them? Here is what you need to know:

Evacuation Zones

These are the areas that officials may order evacuated during a hurricane. These zones are mapped by the National Hurricane Center and indicate areas that will be affected by storm surge - storm-driven waves that can inundate a community, and threaten lives. Zones in Hillsborough County are identified from A - E, and there are parts of the county that are not in an evacuation zone.

Find Evacuation Information.

Due to significant changes in the evacuation map in 2022, your evacuation zone may have changed or you may be in an evacuation zone for the first time. Please check your evacuation zone.

Flood Zones

These federally identified zones indicate a property's risk for flooding at any time of the year, including as a result of heavy or steady rain. This zone has nothing to do with hurricanes or other emergencies, and everything to do with your property insurance and building requirements. Nationally, these zones are classified as Zones A (Special Flood Hazard Area), B, C, D, V and X. Every property is in a flood zone.

Find My Flood Zone.

Interestingly, a home may be in a non-evacuation zone, but still be in a high risk flood zone because of a nearby pond or stream. Alternatively, a home could be in a low risk flood zone, but still in an early evacuation zone because of storm surge projections or high winds.

That's why it's important to know both your Flood Zone and your Evacuation Zone, and the difference between them. Still unsure?

Here's a helpful guide on when to use which map:

When to check the Evacuation Zone Map

  • Before hurricane season to make sure your family prepared
  • During a hurricane or major storm, to know if you should evacuate
When to check the Flood Zone Map
  • You own, rent, or are buying a new property and don't know if you need flood insurance
  • You refinance or get a mortgage
  • You need building permits for work on your property
  • You live in a low-lying area or near a stream, pond or body of water

Tampa City Council halts any new funding of the PURE water project

TAMPA – The Tampa City Council put the brakes on a project that is looking to repurpose city wastewater.

The council, in a unanimous vote, halted any new funding for the PURE project.

"I don't want to fund this anymore," said Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak. "To me this is it. This is done. If we need to do something different, we'll deal with it in a different way. I don't anticipate approving any more funding for PURE as it stands and to me, that is closing it. I understand legally it's a little different, but to me, it's a closure."

The Purify Usable Resources for the Environment (PURE) project was a proposed water recycling project. The City of Tampa said the project would redirect up to 50 million gallons per day of "highly treated reclaimed water" from the city's Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant that would have been put in Hillsborough Bay.

Tampa Water Department temporarily purchasing water from wholesale water provider

Tampa logo

The Tampa Water Department will be purchasing water from Tampa Bay Water (TBW) for several weeks beginning on Monday, September 19, 2022.

Why this purchase is necessary:

To facilitate planned infrastructure upgrades at the David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility. The Tampa Water Department needs to temporarily reduce water production to make way for planned upgrades. These changes are part of the $93M High Service Pump Station project that will expand treatment capacity, improve water quality, and increase operational flexibility and reliability.

Projected timeline for additional water purchases:

September 19 – September 26, 2022

What customers should expect:

Some customers, particularly those in the New Tampa area, may notice taste and odor differences. This is due to a difference in the water source. Water purchased from TBW can be a blend of groundwater, surface water, or desalinated water.

The water remains safe to drink and use in their homes and businesses.

Tampa Water customers will also see additional charges on their utility bill, listed as “TBW Pass-Through.” These charges will likely appear in their September/October statements.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Sonia M. Quiñones
Supervisor – Communications and Conservation, Tampa Water Department
cell: (813) 447-0338
email: sonia.quinones@tampa.gov

Tampa Water Department holds kid-friendly water monitoring demonstration

Tampa logo

Tampa Water Department staff gave children at Temple Crest Park a chance to use their scientific skills to monitor the water in the Hillsborough River.

Event information: The after-school demonstration was held ahead of World Water Monitoring Day, which will take place on September 18th. Staff members supplied students with water monitoring kits from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The children were then given water samples from the Hillsborough River to test for pH levels, temperature and more.

The City of Tampa gets its water primarily from the Hillsborough River. That water goes through an extensive treatment and filtration process to make sure it is safe to drink. As part of the Water Department’s monitoring process, a team of scientists and technicians also conduct over 35,000 tests for more than 200 contaminants. At the end of the day, the City of Tampa provides clean, safe drinking water to more than 710,000 customers.

For more on the Water Department’s treatment process and water monitoring efforts check out: https://www.tampa.gov/water/water-quality

What is World Water Monitoring Day? Water Monitoring Day is part of an international effort to build awareness and promote efforts that protect the world’s water supply. The program asks communities on a local level to keep an eye on the conditions of their rivers, streams, and other waterways. More than 80,000 people have participated in World Water Monitoring Day since it started back in 2002.

For more information on World Water Monitoring Day visit https://www.monitorwater.org.

Tampa wastewater reuse project under fire again

TAMPA – For years, environmentalists and Tampa city officials have sparred over what to do with about 50 million gallons per day of highly treated wastewater currently being dumped into Tampa Bay.

The city wants to divert the wastewater to replenish the Hillsborough River, help lower salinity levels in Sulphur Springs and, possibly, augment the city’s drinking supply.

Opponents say traces of pharmaceuticals or household beauty products could endanger residents and wildlife. And they say the project would be an expensive boondoggle that would increase water bills by up to $67 a month.

On Monday, yet another fight over Purify Usable Resources for the Environment (PURE) began as city officials held briefings with reporters while opponents held a news conference on the banks of the lower Hillsborough River in Sulphur Springs.

Florida scientists will study how homeowners affect the water quality of stormwater ponds

When residents purchase "waterfront properties," many don't realize the function of their nearby stormwater ponds and actually cause them harm by removing plants and mowing the grass too close to the edge.

Florida researchers are tasked with identifying the benefits of stormwater ponds, and how homeowners are interacting with them.

A team of scientists with the University of Florida have been granted $1.6 million from the National Science Foundation to study stormwater ponds and the people living around them for the next four years or so across the state. They’ll document environmental, social and economic benefits, collectively called ecosystem services.

“We want to have an ecosystem in there that can function and … reduce that nitrogen and phosphorus from heading out into these natural bodies of water,” Michelle Atkinson, an extension agent in Manatee County for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said. “Are aesthetic preferences impacting those environmental functions? That's what we don't know for sure. We have suspicions. We have our hypothesis, but we want to prove it.”

According to the UF press release, the researchers will conduct field work, focus groups, surveys and data collection both at the state level and in two communities in Manatee and St. Lucie counties that have a large number of stormwater ponds and where algae blooms have been a recent problem. The results could apply to other parts of the country.

Atkinson said she wants people to view these ponds as amenities and put some value to them.

“That’s what we're going to try to do is quantify some of those ecosystem services that our ponds do. By adding plants or managing a different way, can we put a value on those services, something that homeowners will feel important enough to want to protect? And say, ‘yes, let's do this in our community, because it's the right thing to do.’”

She said she hopes management changes come as a result of this study — whether it's voluntary from homeowners, or enforced by government.

Report: Sea level rise will affect the property lines of Florida’s coastal counties

Rising seas will shift tidal boundaries, leading to the loss of taxable properties, according to a new study. This is expected to impact the tax base of hundreds of U.S. coastal counties, with Florida being the state most affected.

A new analysis released Thursday highlights how sea level rise will change private property boundaries along coastal areas.

Using the latest climate models and current emissions data, researchers with Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization that analyzes and reports on climate science, have determined that private property owners across the U.S. will lose an area the size of New Jersey by the year 2050.

“By mid-century, more than 648,000 individual tax parcels, totaling as many as 4.4 million acres, are projected to be at least partly below the relevant tidal boundary level,” according to the report. “Of those, more than 48,000 properties may be entirely below the relevant boundary level. Florida, Louisiana, and Texas have the largest number of affected parcels.”

Don Bain, an engineer and senior advisor for Climate Central, said Florida has the most properties that will be impacted — more than 140,000 by 2050.

His team generated more than 250 individual county reports to identify any potential movements of public-private property boundaries. He said the losses will result in less property tax revenue.

Click here to find analysis results in your county

Tampa Bay Water board selects ‘blue’ route for Segment A of new Hillsborough pipeline

TBW logo

UPDATE: At the request of Hillsborough County, on Sept. 19th Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors selected the “blue” route for Segment A of the new South Hillsborough Pipeline. Segment A is approximately 18 miles long and connects Tampa Bay Water’s regional water treatment plant in Brandon to Hillsborough County’s Lithia Water Treatment Plant.

Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors deferred action on Segment B, which is Hillsborough County’s portion of the pipeline. Segment B will carry water from Tampa Bay Water’s regional system to Hillsborough County’s new point of connection at its future South County Water Treatment Facility.

More information »


CLEARWATER – On Sept. 19, 2022, Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors will consider selection of a route for the new South Hillsborough Pipeline. Two potential top-ranked routes will be presented by Tampa Bay Water’s consultants:

  • The “orange” route is the top-ranked route based on weighting non-cost criteria at 75 percent and project cost at 25 percent.
  • The “blue” route is the top-ranked route when putting a greater emphasis on the cost of the project.

The board was originally expected to select a route at its Aug. 15, 2022, meeting, but delayed the decision to allow Hillsborough County more time to review the engineers’ route studies. The board also expressed concern for impacts to water rates as engineers’ estimates went up approximately 44 percent due to the rising cost of construction materials, labor and property in the Tampa Bay region. Each of Tampa Bay Water’s wholesale customers will help pay for Tampa Bay Water’s portion of the pipeline, and those costs will ultimately be paid by the water customers of Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Tampa Bay Water’s engineering consultants analyzed a total of 10 routes (five northern segments and five southern segments), which resulted in a shortlist of three top-ranked consolidated routes. The routes were evaluated against 11 selection criteria, which included non-cost factors such as public inconvenience, safety, environmental impacts and permitting, as well as project cost.

The new South Hillsborough Pipeline will be approximately 25 miles long, up to 72 inches in diameter and will carry up to 65 million gallons per day (mgd) of additional drinking water to the southern Hillsborough service area. It will start at the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant in Brandon, connect to Hillsborough County’s Lithia Water Treatment Plant and end at the County’s new connection point at Balm Riverview and Balm roads.

For more information, go to tampabaywater.org/shp

route map

Health Advisory lifted for Ben T Davis Beach

FDOH logo

The Hillsborough County Department of Healthy tested the water quality at Ben T Davis Beach on Wednesday, Sept. 14th, and bacteria levels are now within safe levels. More information »


Original notice follows:

A health advisory has been issued for Ben T Davis Beach due to high bacteria levels. This should be considered a potential risk to the bathing public and swimming is not recommended. Samples taken were above threshold for enterococci bacteria. The beach will be re-sampled in a week.

When re-sampling indicates that the water is within the satisfactory range, the bacteriological health advisory will be lifted.

About Health Advisory for High Bacteria Levels

An advisory is issued when the beach action value is 70.5 or higher. This is set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County has been conducting coastal beach water quality monitoring at nine sites once every two weeks since August 2000, and weekly since August 5, 2002 through the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program.

The water samples are being analyzed for enteric bacteria (enterococci) that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals, which may cause human disease, infections, or rashes. The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. The purpose of the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program is to determine whether Florida has significant coastal beach water quality problems.

Please visit the Florida Department of Health's Beach Water Quality website. To review the beach water sampling results for reporting counties, click on a county name.

Study shows fertilizer ordinances improve water quality (but timing matters)

GAINESVILLE – A new University of Florida study has found that local residential fertilizer ordinances help improve water quality in nearby lakes, but the timing of fertilizer restrictions influences how effective they are.

Using 30 years of water quality data gathered by the UF/IFAS LAKEWATCH program from 1987 to 2018, scientists found that lakes in areas with winter fertilizer bans had the most improvement over time in levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, the main nutrients found in fertilizers.

These lakes also showed larger increases in water clarity and decreases in chlorophyll since the implementation of fertilizer bans. These measurements can also indicate lower nutrient levels, as excess nutrients can feed algae blooms that lead to turbid waters with higher levels of chlorophyll.

“To date, this is the most comprehensive study of fertilizer ordinances’ impact on water quality, not just in Florida but also nationally, and it would not have been possible without the efforts of our LAKEWATCH community scientists,” said Sam Smidt, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of soil, water and ecosystem sciences and the senior author of the study.

TBRPC awards $90,000 in Stormwater Outreach and Education Grants

TBRPC logo

Congratulations to the 2023 Stormwater Outreach and Education Funding Recipients!

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) have selected the recipients of the FY2023 Stormwater Outreach and Education funding. This funding from FDOT aims to further public involvement, education, and outreach efforts to improve the quality of stormwater runoff in the Tampa Bay Region. Projects develop and implement creative public outreach programs and a variety of educational materials, such as door hangers, stormdrain murals, and hands-on activities for children.

This year, funds were distributed across 14 projects, totaling $90,000. Awardees included City of Dunedin, City of Madeira Beach, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, MOSI, Pasco County, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, and others. Many projects were tailored to this year’s target audiences: 1) frontline communities; 2) construction and development industry; 3) lawn care and landscaping companies; and 4) tourism and hospitality. Notable projects include hospitality educational programs through both Keep Pinellas Beautiful and Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, expansion of the City of Largo’s rain barrel program, development of an augmented reality filter for social media by the City of Clearwater, and the creation and distribution of educational materials for Tampa Bay businesses by Tampa Bay Waterkeeper.

See the full list of FY2023 funding recipients.

Visit the Stormwater Outreach & Education Funding page to learn more.

Tampa Water Department temporarily converting to chlorine disinfection

Tampa logo

The Tampa Water Department will temporarily change its water disinfection process to chlorine between September 12-October 3, 2022.

  • What is happening?
    During this period, the department will use chlorine instead of chloramine (a mix of ammonia and chlorine) to disinfect the drinking water.
  • Why are we switching how we disinfect our water?
    This routine switch protects the quality of drinking water by preventing bacteria from occurring in our water mains and service lines. Temporarily switching to chlorine also offers a sustainable alternative to losing millions of gallons of drinking water by releasing water via the City’s hydrants to clean out the water lines.

Customers with a sensitivity to chlorine:
Customers who are sensitive to chlorine may notice a stronger smell or taste of chlorine during this switchover period. To minimize this effect, the Tampa Water Department recommends:

  • Run the tap for a few minutes before using.
  • Fill a pitcher of water and let it sit for several hours to allow any residual chlorine to evaporate.
  • Consider installing a carbon filter on kitchen/bathroom faucets or shower heads or replacing existing filters with new ones.

Populations with special considerations: Individuals and business owners who already take special steps to remove chloramine from tap water, such as dialysis centers, medical facilities, and aquatic pet owners, will want to take the same precautions during this temporary switch to chlorine.

For more information, contact City of Tampa Utilities at (813) 274-8811 or visit tampa.gov/ChlorineDisinfection.

Human link to Red Tide highlights need for better water monitoring

Scientists have long tried to understand the connection between nitrogen pollution and the infamous toxic algal blooms.

When the ominous rust-colored cloud of Red Tide begins to saturate coastal waters in Southwest Florida, it means beach closures. Asthma attacks. Itchy skin and watery eyes. Dead fish and a wretched smell that can spoil the salty breeze.

Now, scientists know it means pollution made the scourge worse.

New research from University of Florida scientists is “providing clarity in what was previously a muddied landscape,” said environmental engineer Christine Angelini, a co-author of the study.

While Red Tides occur naturally, scientists have long debated the degree to which they are worsened by high levels of nutrients such as nitrogen from human sources agricultural and urban. Scientists previously had found a correlation between so-called nutrient loads and Red Tide. But the new research offers some of the strongest evidence yet that humans directly influence the severity of the toxic blooms.

Oyster shells used to create more than two miles of reefs in Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Watch project not only replenishes the bay's oyster reefs but restores the ecosystem and prevents beach erosion.

PINELLAS COUNTY – The shucked oyster shells left over from tasty dishes at Tampa Bay seafood restaurants are helping to restore the shoreline ecosystem and protect shorelines from coastal erosion throughout Tampa Bay, Florida's largest open-water estuary.

For the past 30 years, the nonprofit organization Tampa Bay Watch has used oyster shells to create more than 2 miles of oyster shell reefs at 30 sites along the shores of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties.

Prior to the 1940s, the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) was abundant in Tampa Bay with estimates as high as 2,000 acres of oyster reefs throughout the estuary. Over-harvesting, disease and environmental impacts, like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, have resulted in an 85 percent loss of oyster reefs along shorelines, according to Tampa Bay Watch.

An estimated 171 acres of oyster habitat is all that remains of the 2,000 acres along the shorelines in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties.

To help restore Tampa Bay's lost oyster habitat, Tampa Bay Watch developed the Community Oyster Reef Enhancement (CORE) program in the early 2000s. Through CORE, Tampa Bay Watch has used more than 2,500 tons of oyster shells to restore reefs.

Red tide projections indicate no toxic blooms in the near future, but that could change

In the next few months, scientists will be monitoring the current, temperature and tropical storm activity, as these factors can shift red tide blooms.

The Gulf of Mexico has been spared from red tide so far this year. The typical season for these toxic algae blooms is from late summer into fall.

"When we typically see the most blooms, just looking back historically, that would typically be in September, October, November,” said Kate Hubbard, who leads the red tide program at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg. She’s also the director for the FWC Center for Red Tide Research.

Hubbard said her team, along with the University of South Florida and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is trying to forecast this year's situation.

"For this year, we would hope that it would be a short bloom — that's what we always hope. No bloom would be welcome," Hubbard said. "But in terms of where we're at what conditions are doing, we're still in the window where we might see something pop up pretty much at any time."

In the next few months, the scientists will be monitoring the Gulf of Mexico loop current, which can upwell nutrients from the continental shelf to nearshore waters. Nutrients feed the red tide microorganism Karenia brevis, which can lead to high concentrations considered bloom levels.

They’ll also be on the lookout for any changes in the water caused by drops in temperature through the fall, along with any tropical activity. These factors and more can either feed or suppress blooms.