Water-Related News

EPA agreement brings Florida a step closer to issuing certain Clean Water Act permits

TALLAHASSEE?–?U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker and Noah Valenstein, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) representing the next step, and one of a number of required elements, for Florida to assume responsibility for issuing certain Clean Water Act permits. The state intends to include the MOA in its formal request to EPA for authorization to administer the Clean Water Act Section 404 program.

This action follows a complex rulemaking process at the state level, including years of discussions with EPA and constituency groups during the development process. The Clean Water Act provides for an interested state or tribe to administer its own program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material to certain waters of the United States in lieu of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Florida is most familiar with its state aquatic resources and associated local conditions, issues and needs,” said Mary S. Walker, EPA Region 4 Administrator. “This MOA represents a significant step forward in Florida’s efforts to assume responsibility for issuing permits for the discharge of dredged or fill material to certain waters, and we look forward to working with FDEP as the process continues.”

“We are proud to have reached this next phase in the assumption process,” said FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “State assumption of the 404 Program will enhance the protection of Florida’s wetlands by affording the state greater control in guarding its natural resources while complying with federal law.”

The Agreement sets forth the respective responsibilities of Florida and the EPA to administer and enforce the Clean Water Act Section 404 program and is a required component of any formal request to assume the program. The Agreement signed today is one of only three that has ever been executed by the EPA and a state or tribe,

Blue-Green Algae Task Force: Alert public when algal toxins detected

How much toxicity does it take to make a blue-green algae bloom hazardous?

The World Health Organization says 10 parts per billion of the toxin microcystin is hazardous to touch. The federal Environmental Protection Agency sets the threshold at 8 parts per billion.

But the Florida Blue-Green Algae Task Force agreed Wednesday [July 30] people need to be warned when any toxins are in the water.

"A simple detection of toxins is enough to prompt a health alert," Florida Chief Science Officer Tom Frazer, who leads the panel, said during the Zoom meeting.

The task force was discussing whether Florida needs to establish a state threshold for hazardous levels of microcystin such as those used by the WHO and EPA and looking at signs developed by the Florida Department of Health and state Department of Environmental Protection to warn people of toxic algae blooms in water bodies.

"There's no safe exposure to toxins," said task force member James Sullivan, executive director of Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce. "If there's a reliable detection (of toxins in the water), the number doesn't mean anything. To be the most cautious for the public, if you detect toxins, you put out an advisory."

Apply now for TBEP Bay Mini-Grants

Tarpon Tag

The deadline to apply is September 25th at 3:00 p.m.

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program is now accepting project applications for the Bay Mini-Grants program!

Bay Mini-Grants are competitive cash awards (up to $5000) for community groups with projects that help improve Tampa Bay.

Project proposals must incorporate at least one of Tampa Bay Estuary Program's goals: water quality, habitat restoration, invasive species, public education, fish and wildlife enhancement.

This year, priority will be given to proposals which directly incorporate emerging contaminants or community involvement in bay restoration.

Applications for Bay Mini-Grants must be submitted by 3:00pm September 25, 2020. Funds will be awarded by mid-December. Projects must begin within six months and be completed within one year.

Groups and organizations from Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties may apply. Funds will be dispersed through contracts. Both non-profit and for-profit organizations are eligible.

The online application is available at https://form.jotform.com/81653734215153.

Please contact Public Outreach Specialist Sheila Scolaro (sscolaro@tbep.org) with any questions.

Downtown resident leads ongoing effort to clean up Hillsborough River

Back on July 2, 2019, Scott Harris paused along The Tampa Riverwalk on his daily bicycle ride in downtown Tampa to peek over the white railing into the Hillsborough River. What he saw mortified him.

Cups, empty motor oil bottles discarded from boats, syringes, cans, plastic bottles, styrofoam chunks - and lots of weird stuff - had washed up into the mangroves.

Harris, a financial planner and Channelside resident, immediately started picking up pieces from the heaps of garbage that had washed up.

He hasn't stopped since.

Along with his partner, Marjorie Sandler, Principal at Gorrie Elementary, and volunteers coordinated through social media, Harris' efforts have grown to include about 2,000 environmentally conscious people.

Weekly and monthly, they now show up to help clean Tampa's waterways.

The result? Thousands of pounds of garbage have since been removed from the river and prevented from drifting into Hillsborough Bay and Tampa Bay.

EPA limits states’ power to review projects that affect water quality

SAN FRANCISCO — For almost 50 years, states and tribal governments have played an outsized role in deciding whether projects that can harm water quality should receive federal permits — a role that is about to change under a new rule finalized by the Trump administration Monday.

The “Clean Water Act 401 Certification Rule” narrows what issues state and tribal governments may consider when determining if a project, such as one that involves discharging pollution into a river or stream, will comply with state water quality standards. State or tribal approval is a prerequisite for obtaining a federal permit under the Clean Water Act.

The new rule curtailing states’ review power is intended to advance President Donald Trump’s goal of promoting “efficient permitting” and reducing “regulatory uncertainties” as outlined in his April 2019 executive order on “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth.” This rule is one of the first major overhauls of the water quality certification process established by the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Tampa Bay Scallop Search registration open

Attention boaters, registration is open for the Scallop Search

It's time to wear a different kind of mask!

Tampa Bay Watch aims to recruit volunteer boaters to snorkel selected sites within Boca Ciega and Lower Tampa Bay for the elusive bay scallops. This year’s Scallop Search will be do-it-yourself from August 15 -23 due to COVID-19.

The goal of the Great Bay Scallop Search is to monitor and document the health and status of the bay scallop population. Read more about the Scallop Search. We mainly recruit volunteers with shallow draft boats, but have limited spots for canoes and kayaks. This year we will not register volunteer snorkelers who do not have boats due to the pandemic. At each site, a weighted transect line 50 meters in length is laid along seagrass beds. Snorkelers count scallops along each side of the transect line, within one meter of each side, creating a 100 square meter survey area.

Sign up fast for this free event, and help us tally up the bay scallop population in Tampa Bay!

Register your boat | Register your canoe or kayak

Environmental groups say latest water bill bad for Florida

Environmental groups across the state are challenging the bill recently signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis that is supposed to help clean up Florida's ailing waterways.

Proponents of Senate Bill 712, also called the Clean Waterways Act, say it will help the state better deal with blue-green algae blooms that have popped up across the Sunshine State in recent years.

Critics, however, say the bill fails to advance Florida's water quality standards and regulations and is actually worse than having no new water laws at all.

"It started out with good intentions, taking the Blue-Green Algae Task Force recommendations and trying to convert them into law," said Chuck O'Neal, with Speak Up Wekiva, one of several groups that have filed a legal challenge to the bill. "But as always happens it goes to Tallahassee and gets picked apart until what comes out is worse than the status quo."