March 2023 Newsletter

10 March 2023
March 2023 Newsletter

On Valentine’s Day, Suncoast Waterkeeper launched its first fundraising campaign – Protect the water you love. Supporters can donate toward our boat patrol program through World Water Day on March 22.

Protect the Waters You Love and Win a Boat Tour with Suncoast Waterkeeper

Patrolling waters is an essential function of Waterkeepers, enabling us to be visibly present in our watersheds, inventory potential sources of pollution, reinforce waterway protections, expand water quality monitoring capabilities, and provide impactful education and outreach opportunities. Board member- and volunteer-led boat patrols have already provided significant successes on the Suncoast, including identifying sewage spills and damaged mangroves. We are working to purchase a boat and join the 360 Waterkeepers around the globe who patrol their waters.  

Each donation of $25 or more automatically enters you into a raffle to win a day out on the water with us!

Caption: The patrol boat that Suncoast Waterkeeper is hoping to purchase.

Volunteer to Keep Eyes on the Suncoast

When you make a pollution report, Suncoast Waterkeeper is committed to following up on the incident. We aim to follow up on 100% of reports and positively impact 80% of real incidents. We need more Eyes on the Suncoast to move the needle on bay health. 

If you would like to learn more, you can watch our new video. 

Don't Swim There!

Remember to check our water report for fecal indicator bacteria before heading out for a swim. 

There are many places around the Suncoast where you must take precautions before getting into the water.  Learn more on our webpage , or follow us on Facebook @suncoastkeeper to see our weekly results.

Investigating Fecal Bacteria in Sarasota Bay

CAPTION: Samples for QPCR or DNA Tracing were taken while learning about anchored vessels in Sarasota Bay.   


Suncoast Waterkeeper did a deep dive into fecal indicator bacteria (AKA poop) sources in Sarasota Bay around Marina Jacks. 

Our samples went to Jonah Ventures for DNA Tracing and E. coli analysis. The results showed that the anchored vessels around the Golden Gate area, outside the regulated mooring field at Marina Jacks, had 10 times the E. coli concentration.  Human waste significantly contributed to the E. coli concentrations for all sites sampled. 

We sampled within the regulated mooring area of Marina Jacks and at two other locations where boats were anchored but not managed by Marina Jacks. All sites had high E. coli counts and human DNA at significant concentrations.  Therefore, we can conclude that human waste is an essential contributor to harmful bacteria found in the waters in all three locations where vessels are anchored in Sarasota Bay.

The main issue here is likely the storage of human-derived E. coli in estuarine sediments, and the role winds and currents play in releasing those harmful bacteria into the water column, where they can pose a risk to those playing in the water.

Thank You to Officer Skinner and Officer Dixon of the City of Sarasota Marine Patrol for a most informative and enjoyable morning on Sarasota Bay, viewing and discussing the Sarasota Mooring Field and potential sources of fecal indicator bacteria in Sarasota Bay. It was an excellent learning experience for Suncoast Waterkeeper. We will keep in touch and find ways to help each other protect Sarasota Bay. 

Caption: Abbey Tyrna, Richard Moore, Office Skinner, Officer Dixon, Alison Albee, and Alex Caruso are all smiles after mulling over solutions to bay protection. 

State Water News

EPA Tells Florida that it has to Do Better to Protect Human Health

After Waterkeepers Florida and the Environmental Defense Alliance filed a petition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told Florida regulators they had one year to strengthen protections of Florida waters to keep humans safe.  The petition to the EPA was written after the state failed to update its Human Health Criteria for Florida water quality based on updated statistics for fish consumption as required.  Both state and EPA recognize that this update is critical and long overdue.  Read all about it in this Tallahassee Democrat article.  

Is Our Persistent Red Tide Tied to the Lack of Progress Made by the Blue-Green Algae Task Force?

Waterkeepers Florida has collaborated with other environmental organizations to publish a progress report on implementing recommendations by Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force.  This task force, created to advance water quality goals throughout the state and reduce the impact of harmful algal blooms such as red tide, has only had 13% of its recommendations acted upon.  Therefore, most actions listed to improve water quality are not being done.  You can read the whole report on Calusa Waterkeeper's webpage.  A bill, HB 423, has been introduced in the Florida House by State Representative Cross that would require the implementation of recommendations published by the task force.  Ask your representatives to support this bill.

Bad Bills to Watch Out For

A few bad bills are moving through committees, but the bad-est bill you should watch out for is HB 1197/ SB 1240.  This bill would preempt local governments from making water quality improvements.  Expressly, it would prohibit local governments from adopting laws, regulations, rules, or policies relating to water quality or quantity, pollution control, pollutant discharge prevention or removal, and wetlands protection.  

Waterkeepers Florida is committed to tracking these issues and advocating for the highest water quality standards that protect all Florida residents.

Watershed Action Alerts 

Manatee County is Proposing the Removal of Wetland Protections and Buffers (Among Other Environmental Programs)

On April 13, the Manatee County Planning Commission will hear plans to remove wetland mitigation and buffer requirements for areas impacted by development. The issue will be in front of the entire Board of County Commissioners on April 20.   

The proposed removal of policies from the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code will allow for the destruction of our wetlands and wetland buffers.  These changes would create permanent damage. Once wetlands are gone, they are gone for good.   

Wetlands are protected ecosystems because they perform a wide variety of essential functions; chief among them is their ability to clean up polluted water.  This function alone should have the County Commission and its appointed Planning Commission fighting to protect these valuable ecosystems in the face of an increasingly harmful red tide.  Wetlands do more than enhance water quality; they protect us from flooding, provide habitat for Florida wildlife, and replenish our dwindling groundwater supplies.   

So why would Manatee County Commission want to push changes that would destroy wetlands in the face of red tide?   

It is time to take action to make sure these changes do not become a reality. Will you join us in protecting our wetlands?  Add your name to our petition that we are sending to the Manatee Board of County Commissioners.  Together, we'll protect what makes the Suncoast special.  

Read our letter to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners for more information.


The Proposed Development of Warm Mineral Springs Park

The City of North Port plans to sell Warm Mineral Springs Park to a developer under a Public-Private Partnership agreement.

There are many reasons to take issue with the City of North Port’s Public Private Partnership plan for Warm Mineral Springs Park, chief among them is that the area “is considered the most important natural manatee warm-water refuge along Florida’s southwest coast” (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2023).

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the main threats to manatees are boat collisions and habitat loss. On the east coast of Florida, we have seen the devastating effect of habitat loss on manatee welfare. In 2021, a record number of manatees died in a single year -- 11000 manatees – from an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) from starvation and malnutrition on Florida’s Atlantic coast (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2023). The UME continued through 2022, killing another 800 manatees. While the number of deaths has slowed, what is certain is that manatees are still starving on Florida’s east coast.

There have been more than 125 manatees documented using the creek in the winter. For this reason, the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are implementing a two-million-dollar habitat improvement project to ensure that manatees can continue to seek refuge in this critical area.

The development, as proposed, is contrary to both ecotourism and manatee protection.  To learn more about this issue, read the article recently published by WUSF.

Call to Action -- Write your state representative to let them know that you do not support the Public-Private Partnership Plan for Warm Mineral Springs.  Instead of selling this critical cultural and environmental amenity to a developer, it should be considered a state treasure and turned into a State Park.

We are Building Capacity!

We recently received a generous $175,000 grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.

The grant from Barancik Foundation will enable Suncoast Waterkeeper to build capacity. The funds will create two new programs– an all-volunteer Pollution Response Team and Mangrove Monitors, and bolster our recently launched community-based pollution monitoring and reporting project called on Eyes on the Suncoast.

A portion of the funding will also be devoted to hiring a Marketing and Communications Specialist to increase effective and focused engagement with the media and the public on issues affecting the health of local waters.

Click here to view the job announcement.

Together we can protect the Suncoast,

Abbey Tyrna, Ph.D.

Executive Director &Waterkeeper

Email: [email protected]

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