Tag Archives: Wildlife

Cheers, discontent accompany first loggerhead nest on AMI

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The first loggerhead nest of the 2019 sea turtle nesting season on Anna Maria Island was spotted and marked May 1 at the south end of the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach. The large hole visible on the right was dug and left overnight by beachgoers. More, page 3. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
Holmes Beach residents and frequent beachwalkers Todd and Vicki McIntyre look over the tracks and the first loggerhead nest of the 2019 sea turtle nesting season near the picnic area at the south end of the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach. Vicki McIntyre is The Islander office assistant.

Hooray! Tracks on the beach May 1 pointed to a nest.

Alas. There was a huge hole left on the beach — a sure threat to nesting sea turtles.

Sea turtles have arrived on Anna Maria Island, seeking clean, flat, dark beaches to lay their nests.

The first loggerhead nest of 2019 was spotted May 1 at the south end of the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

But the nest was found next to a hole in the sand measuring about 5 feet in diameter — large enough to possibly trap or deter the nesting female on its way to lay its eggs or on its return to the Gulf of Mexico.

Some beachgoers assumed the hole was the sea turtle nest, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox.

Sea turtle nesting season officially kicked off May 1, which signals AMITW volunteers hit the beach just after sunrise looking for signs of nesting activity and, later in the season, signs that hatchlings emerged from nests.

Fox said holes in the sand are dangerous to sea turtles and people. She said turtle watch volunteers have been injured on morning walks by stumbling into holes on the beach.

In March 2018, following the spring visitor influx, a hole found on the beach was so large that the beach-cleaning tractor became stuck and had to be towed.

“Holes, especially on Manatee Public Beach, are one of the biggest problems we face on the beach during nesting season,” Fox said. “We understand that people are in vacation-mode and having fun, but they need to remember to take care of our natural resources and fill in holes at the end of the day.”

Holmes Beach code enforcement officer Robin Evangalisto said May 1 that her office patrols the beach during the season, filling in holes and removing beach gear, such as tents, canopies, chairs and rafts left on the beach after sunset.

“People usually just don’t know what they are doing could be harmful,” she said. “Usually they are happy to comply, once we explain.”

The code enforcement officers in Holmes Beach, as well as Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach, impound equipment left on the beach, which the owner can retrieve upon payment of a fee, $75 in Holmes Beach and $100 in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

In 2018, Anna Maria amended its nuisance ordinance to state that, “Digging a hole in the beach sand so as to create a hazard to other beach users or wildlife is deemed a nuisance and in violation of this code of ordinances.”

Violation of the ordinance in Anna Maria carries a fine of $100.

Some beachfront cities, including Panama City Beach, have ordinances banning metal tools more than 14 inches long on the beach.

Violators in Panama City Beach receive a verbal warning and then a $25 fine.

None of the three island municipalities have regulations prohibiting tools on the beach, but Fox said she plans to approach the Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach commissions to see if they would consider adopting such an ordinance.

“Large industrial shovels should be treated like alcohol or any other problematic elements that don’t belong on the beach,” Fox said. “If it takes an ordinance to fix this, then that might be the next step.”

Call code enforcement to report unattended property or large holes on the beach.

City of Anna Maria code enforcement — 941-708-6130, ext. 139 or ext. 129.

City of Bradenton Beach code enforcement — 941-778-1005, ext. 280.

City of Holmes Beach code enforcement — 941-708-5800, ext. 247.

For more information on nesting season, contact Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

First sea turtles of 2019 attempt to nest

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Sea turtle tracks in the sand, spotted by AMITW volunteers — lead from the water and back again early morning April 27 at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. The activity was deemed a “false crawl” — no nest was found. Islander Photo: AMITW

The loggerheads are off to an early start on Anna Maria Island.

Sea turtle nesting season officially began May 1, but the first activity of the season — three false crawls — was spotted on island beaches April 27.

A false crawl occurs when a female turtle leaves the Gulf of Mexico to nest, but returns to the water without laying her eggs. The season often begins with false crawls as the female sea turtles are “testing the temperature of the sand” before depositing their eggs, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox.

“It’s gotten warmer recently and everything with sea turtles is about temperature,” Fox said April 27 regarding the early activity.

The first nest of a record-breaking 534 nests last season was spotted May 13, 2018, at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

Also, as of April 27, Mote Marine Laboratory of Sarasota had documented seven nests south of AMI on the beaches of Casey Key, Longboat Key and Venice.

Every year, officially May 1-Oct. 31, female sea turtles — mostly loggerheads on the Gulf Coast — return to beaches near where they hatched to lay their eggs.

Each of the 73 turtle watch volunteers is assigned to walk a turn on a 1-mile stretch of beach just after sunrise, looking for the tell-tale tracks that indicate a sea turtle came ashore to nest.

Later in the season, they will scan the shore for signs of hatches.

Once spotted, nests are marked with tape and stakes and observed for data and protection.

Fox said several people she spoke with on the beach April 27 near where the false crawls were spotted recognized the tracks as being made by sea turtles.

“I was impressed that the public knew what the tracks were,” Fox said. “It’s good to know that people are out there keeping an eye on our wildlife.”

For more information on sea turtle nesting on AMI, contact Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Visit myfwc.com/seaturtle and click on “Sea Turtles and Lights” or “Wildlife Friendly Lighting” for information on keeping beaches safe for sea turtles.

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

Anna Maria Island prepares for nesting season

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Holmes Beach code enforcement officer Nate Brown, left, and Police Chief Bill Tokajer flank a table April 18 displaying handouts, door-hangers, stickers and a sea turtle-friendly lighting display at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring provided the information. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

The official start for sea turtle nesting season on Anna Maria Island is May 1.

But the turtles can be expected any day.

The first nest in 2018 was marked May 13 on Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

With mature females making their way to island beaches to deposit their eggs, precautions — for people and turtles — must be taken.

This means lighting visible from the shoreline must be sea turtle-friendly.

A record-breaking number of loggerhead sea turtle nests — 534 — were counted on Anna Maria Island in 2018.

Adult female sea turtles only leave the water to nest. They use their instincts to follow the natural light from the reflection of the moon and stars on the surface of the water to return to the Gulf of Mexico after depositing their clutch of eggs.

The hatchlings follow the same instincts when they emerge from the clutch to the sandy surface — they head to the sparkle of light on the water.

Bright lights visible from the shoreline can distract sea turtles away from the water, increasing the likelihood of death by predation or exhaustion, when they lose sight of the water, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Additionally, beach equipment, including rafts, canopies, volleyball nets and tents, left on the beach overnight, as well as holes dug in the sand, can be impediments to nesting turtles.

During nesting season, which runs through Oct. 31, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring must depend on code enforcement in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach to keep the beaches safe for sea turtles and people.

The state and municipalities have ordinances to deal with sea turtle lighting violations. Additionally, loggerheads are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Florida Marine Turtle Protection Act.

Island code enforcement officers and turtle watchers will begin regular lighting inspections the first week of May.

However, the cities also have been preparing in the off-season.

In 2018, Anna Maria amended its nuisance ordinance to make large holes on the beach a violation, according to code enforcement officer and turtle watch volunteer Debbie Haynes.

“Holes on the beach are unsafe for people and sea turtles,” Haynes said. “I’m glad something is being done.”

In Bradenton Beach, code enforcement officer Gail Garneau is emailing property owners, rental management companies and other businesses, reminding them to install turtle-friendly light bulbs.

In 2017, the city enacted a fee schedule that includes fines for property left overnight on the beach and lighting violations.

In Holmes Beach, last year, the commission included sea turtle ordinance violations on its notices of violation form and also includes a compliance check as part of the city’s new vacation rental inspections.

Additionally, JT Thomas, Holmes Beach code enforcement supervisor, said his officers — including Robin Evangelisto, recently hired to help with sea turtle season — are checking lighting at new construction for compliance.

Thomas said he and Police Chief Bill Tokajer met April 9 with representatives from Florida Power and Light to identify streetlights needing shielding for nesting season.

Also, some beachfront property owners have pruned back trees and bushes that previously blocked light visible from the shoreline — including lights that are visible through the vegetation from other sources.

“We are being proactive and letting people know that if they trimmed back their shrubs, lights that weren’t visible may be visible now,” Thomas said. “So we ask them to quickly come into compliance and install turtle-friendly bulbs.”

Suzi Fox, AMITW executive director, said she has been contacting owners at locations that consistently had lighting problems to provide them with bulbs.

“No one should have to turn out a light,” Fox said. “That’s not safe. We want people to have bulbs they can leave on year-round.”

She said she hopes to receive grant funding through the Sea Turtle Conservancy to purchase more bulbs.

“People have been really receptive,” Fox said. “When more funding comes through, we can do even more.”

For more information on nesting season, contact Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Visit myfwc.com/seaturtle and click on “Sea Turtles and Lights” or “Wildlife Friendly Lighting” for more information on keeping beaches safe for sea turtles.

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

 

Do’s and don’ts for sea turtle nesting season

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends people follow these guidelines for sea turtle safety:
• DO turn off or adjust lighting along the beachfront to prevent nesting sea turtles from becoming disoriented and moving toward the glow of light on land, instead of natural light reflecting on the surface of the water. Indoor lights should be turned off, with curtains closed after dark, and outdoor lighting should be turtle-friendly bulbs. Use fixtures low to the ground and shielded from view at the shoreline.
• DON’T use flashlights or camera flashes on the beach at night. They can distract nesting sea turtles and cause them to return to the water.
• DO clear the way at the end of the day. Nesting female sea turtles can become trapped, confused or impeded by gear left on the beach at night. Remove items such as boats, tents, rafts and beach furniture and fill in holes or level sand castles before dusk. Holes trap turtles and can injure people.

Call code enforcement to report unattended property or large holes on the beach.

City of Anna Maria code enforcement — 941-708-6130, ext. 139 or ext. 129.

City of Bradenton Beach code enforcement — 941-778-1005, ext. 280.

City of Holmes Beach code enforcement — 941-708-5800, ext. 247.

Report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline, at 1-888-404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.

For more information on nesting season, contact Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Dead sea turtle honored with poem

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A dead loggerhead sea turtle lays on the shore in Holmes Beach March 25. Christine Arnold, of Georgia, took the photograph and wrote to The Islander April 18, “At first we thought it was alive, as did many others who came running to observe.” Unfortunately, Arnold said, it was dead. Many beachgoers gathered to grieve for the sea turtle. “I, like others, took her photo to remember her,” Arnold said. Arnold also wrote a poem to memorialize the turtle: “How long has the sea carried you back to this place. Now she brings you to the end. We grieve for you wise one. We stand in honor of you, and we cry over your loss and ours.”

Turtle Watch limits volunteer opportunities, expands responsibilities

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Suzi Fox, AMITW executive director, leads a meeting April 2 in Holmes Beach.
About 60 Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteers congregate April 2 at CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: Courtesy AMITW

Turtle watch is opting for quality over quantity.

About 60 volunteers gathered April 2 at CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach for “turtle watch spring training,” a meeting led by Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, to prepare volunteers for the upcoming nesting season.

Some years, the meeting included new volunteers eager to learn about sea turtles and help conserve the habitat for the species that nest on the island.

This year, Fox limited the training pool to 73 experienced volunteers.

During sea turtle nesting and hatching season, which runs May 1-Oct. 31, AMITW volunteers walk a designated 1-mile stretch of beach just after sunrise, looking for signs of nesting activity and, later in the season, tracks indicating hatchlings have emerged from nests.

Fox said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission asked her to limit her staff this year. She said the organization would be functional with 25 volunteers, according to the FWC.

“We are over-staffed according to the FWC,” Fox said April 2, adding that Englewood Beach documents about 3,000 nests each season with 48 volunteers collecting data, compared with 534 nests on Anna Maria Island in 2018, with nearly 100 volunteer walkers.

On Anna Maria Island, when nests are identified, they are staked, marked and monitored for data, which goes to Manatee County, as is required for the beach renourishment program, as well as the state, for tracking population and behavior trends.

Volunteers find tracks and then determine if they lead to a nest or indicate a false crawl — a failed nesting attempt.

Fox said that because people are so enthusiastic about sea turtles on the island, she allowed the volunteer pool to be larger than needed. Now, with an increasing number of nests on the island each year, the focus is on accurate data collection, which, she said, requires boots-on-the-ground experience.

“We need the volunteers we have to get more experience under their belts. People are not learning what they should be,” Fox said. “The more time spent on the beach collecting data, the more confident they will be when they determine if tracks lead to a nest or false crawl.”

She said she asked volunteers to walk two mornings a week instead of one.

Fox said she wants the volunteers to “take more ownership” of their sections and will be giving them some responsibilities that used to be reserved for coordinators — the volunteers in each section who confirm nests spotted by walkers.

“I’d like to try making some changes in turtle watch,” Fox said. “Instead of being the social walking program, we’re all going to work a little bit harder at the actual data collection.”

For more information about AMITW, contact Fox at suzilfox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

2018 red tide outbreak — not Mother Nature’s doing

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Linda Jones receives the Suncoast Waterkeeper Environmental Achievement Award March 3, recognizing decades of activism and opposition to phosphate mining and inappropriate development. Jones led the Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club in opposition to Long Bar Pointe.
The blue line on the graph represents an average of 10 years of FWC data from years before Florida’s development boom, depicting red tide as it may have been historically, when the Conquistadors arrived and began keeping records. The red line represents more recent averages of FWC data. A line for 2010-19 would be off the graph. Islander Graphic: Larry Brand
A microscopic-size cell of Karenia brevis, the species responsible for red tide. Islander Courtesy Photo

By Andy Mele, Special to The Islander

As 150 guests at the Suncoast Waterkeeper Brunch for the Bay learned March 3, the red tide bloom in 2018 was not a natural occurrence.

The determining factor in today’s red tides, after all variables are accounted for, is human-induced nutrient pollution — primarily nitrates and phosphates. Nutrients are not merely a marginal contributor, as some institutions and elected officials would like us to believe.

True, Karenia brevis, the toxic alga that populates the lethal blooms we call red tide is a naturally occurring organism. It is found in waters around the globe.

And, yes, red tides have been documented since the arrival of Europeans to Florida’s shore. But there is a difference between the naturally occurring red tides and the rapidly growing red tides we have endured for decades.

About Karenia brevis
Karenia brevis is also known as red tide when its numbers become higher than 1,000 cells per liter. K.brevis emits brevetoxins that can become airborne in water spray and wind. At concentrations above 10,000 cells/liter, red tide can cause respiratory symptoms in humans. Above 50,000 cells per liter, fish mortality begins to occur. Above 1,000,000 cells/liter, discoloration of the water can be seen. Concentrations as high as 50,000,000 cells/liter were observed during the 2018 red tide event.

Larry Brand, Ph.D. and a research scientist at the University of Miami, was the featured speaker at Suncoast Waterkeeper’s annual brunch at the Bradenton Yacht Club in Palmetto.

Brand told his audience there is a fifteenfold increase in K. brevis concentrations that is contributing to today’s mega-blooms. After accounting for geological and geographical contributions to red tide, Brand said, “The only remaining variable that has increased enough to account for it is us.”

Brand explained some of the complexities of Florida’s red tide. Plants — and algae are plants — require 16 parts nitrogen to one part phosphorus. Where that 16N:1P ratio is found, there can be a natural red tide bloom.

The waters on the East Coast of Florida — where the St. Lucie Canal empties Lake Okeechobee discharges thick with toxic blue-green algae — are dominated by limestone deposits and are naturally rich in nitrogen. Hence, phosphorus is required to provide the optimum 16:1 nutrient that drives algal growth. No phosphorus, no algae. Phosphorus is relatively scarce on the East Coast.

On the southwest Gulf Coast, however, the opposite circumstances prevail. Because of massive natural phosphate formations underlying west-central Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico, the coastal waters are rich in phosphorus from a variety of inputs, including phosphate mine drainage. Here, algae need nitrogen to stimulate growth. No nitrogen, no algae. It’s called “nitrogen-limited.”

However, when Lake Okeechobee’s nitrogen-rich blue-green algae enters the system from the Caloosahatchee River, the conditions for explosive growth are met.

Brand lists four principal sources of nitrogen: animal waste, crop fertilizer, stormwater runoff and illegal sewage discharges. All have increased exponentially since the 1950s along with Florida’s population and development, when the first sample run was conducted by FWC. In the 1950s, less than 10 percent of the Florida coastline was developed, while the remainder was woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. Today, more than 90 percent is developed and we’re flushing pollutants into the bays and Gulf.

Agricultural sources — animal waste and fertilizer — are the major causes of intense algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee. They are transported down the Kissimmee River, and pumped north from sugar cane fields south of the lake. The other two sources — stormwater and sewage — supply a steady diet of nutrients for red tide as it expands up and down the Gulf Coast.

Aside from people with respiratory symptoms who may suffer chronic asthma or COPD, the effects of K. brevis are immediately noticeable, leading people to leave the area, although no long-term or acute effects are known. The only known human fatalities associated with red tide have been from shellfish poisoning. Shellfish filter water through their gills to extract food and oxygen and, as K. brevis cells accumulate in shellfish, they can be fatal if eaten.

Blue-green algae, on the other hand, which is consumed by fish and shellfish, are suspected of having long-term impacts, specifically ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, without short-term impacts to warn of exposure. The correlations between algae and disease are still being studied, but an environmental toxin, beta-methylamino-L-alanine or BMAA, is found in both victims of the diseases and the blue-green algae.

BMAA appears to provide a causative link.

And BMAA has been documented in almost all shrimp and species of fish from the areas of the red tide bloom.

As a general caution, Brand suggested not consuming any seafood from areas impacted by red tide for several months after the event has subsided.

Data sets for 1954-63 are regarded as baseline “naturally-occurring” red tide, approximately what Hernando de Soto or Ponce de Leon might have seen in the 1500s — neither a threat to tourism nor an apocalyptic killer of fish and marine mammals.

But today’s conditions are both, according to Brand, and it’s worsening.

The ozonators, bubblers and clay sprinklers being touted by Mote Marine Laboratory and some elected officials as fixes are unproven, wildly expensive and cannot be scaled up to levels needed to treat the coastline. Brand says they appear to be strategies for developing revenue from wealthy canal homeowners, and cannot be taken seriously as solutions to red tide.

He said it, and Suncoast Waterkeeper has been saying it since last summer: the only practical, meaningful and affordable solution is to stop the nutrient pollution at its source. And its true source is not at a dairy farm or a sugar cane field. It is in Tallahassee.

Here’s the Waterkeeper solution to red tide.

Florida urgently needs:
• Numeric, enforceable water quality standards and the FDEP staff and budget to enforce them.
• Common-sense limits on development.
• No more phosphate mining.
• Elected officials who understand that as the water goes, so goes Florida.
• A comprehensive water and aquifer management program, including conservation measures, pricing and limits.

Brand and Suncoast Waterkeeper maintain that without action and change, there is little chance for improvement and there’s a strong prospect the state’s water crisis will worsen.

Andy Mele, of Suncoast Waterkeeper, is an advocate for a better environment and responsible development in Manatee County. He is former executive director of a major Hudson River environmental group that was instrumental in forcing General Electric to remove 300,000 pounds of toxic PCBs from the river. He authored “Polluting for Pleasure,” the book that rendered two-stroke outboard motors all but extinct, keeping millions of gallons of oil and gasoline from U.S. waterways every year. He can be reached at andymele@mac.com.

Second batch of clams seeded

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A second batch of clams purchased by the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency line the dock at the South Coquina Boat Ramp March 9 ready to be loaded onto a boat for seeding in Sarasota Bay near the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Purchased for for $36,000, the 200,000 clams, which each filter several gallons of water a day, are the first phase in the CRA’s plans for a living shoreline, complete with oysters and reef balls. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice
State Rep. William Robinson Jr., R-Bradenton, left, and Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Ralph Cole get ready to participate March 9 in seeding the second batch of clams in the water near the Historic Bridge Street Pier.
Rusty Chinnis from Sarasota Bay Watch and his crew, along with participants state Rep. William Robinson Jr., R-Bradenton, and Bradenton Beach Commissioner Ralph Cole, right, drop clams into the water near the Historic Bridge Street Pier March 9.
William Robinson Jr. drops clams purchased by the Bradenton Beach CRA into the water near the Historic Bridge Street Pier March 9. Each of the clams will filter gallons of water a day.

A second batch of clams purchased by the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency line the dock at the South Coquina Boat Ramp March 9 ready to be loaded onto a boat for seeding in Sarasota Bay near the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Purchased for for $36,000, the 200,000 clams, which each filter several gallons of water a day, are the first phase in the CRA’s plans for a living shoreline, complete with oysters and reef balls. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice

Clams stall Bradenton Beach’s living shoreline project

Hurry up and wait.

Bradenton Beach’s living shoreline project — seeding the bayfront adjacent to the Historic Bridge Street Pier with clams — is stalled.

City engineer Lynn Burnett told Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency members Feb. 6 the clams won’t arrive until the end of winter.

The development of a living shoreline involves populating the waters around the city pier with clams, which filter and benefit water quality, as well as other sea life.

Clam farmer Carter Davis from Farm Raised Clams of Southwest Florida in St. James City is providing the clams.

Burnett said she spoke with Bruce Barber, executive director of the Gulf Shellfish Institute, about placement for the city’s 200,000 clams.

“There’s a pretty big effort and coordination that needs to take place with all of that. So we’re wanting to have a little bit more time. Let season subside a little bit and get a successful placement,” Burnett said.

Helping with the task of transporting the clams from St. James to Bradenton Beach is CRA member and Beach House Restaurant owner Ed Chiles. He has volunteered a refrigerated truck that can carry 6,000 pounds of clams with deliveries to the site one day a week for four-five weeks.

Sarasota Bay Watch will oversee placement and hire local fishers for the task, a move initiated by the CRA to support fishers impacted by red tide in 2018.

City Commissioner Ralph Cole, said, “This is one little step in the direction that could, and I say could, help a lot as far as water quality goes.”

Holmes Beach dives into Spring Lake cleanup options

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Spring Lake, a polluted body of water between 68th and 70th streets in Holmes Beach, was determined to be brackish by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. City officials will decide next how to clean and aerate the lake. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Questions about Spring Lake have been answered.

And action will be taken.

The lake, a saltwater-fed lake between 68th and 70th streets — has been undergoing review to determine the best way to remove the “depth of muck and sewage that has settled to the bottom,” according to city engineer Lynn Burnett.

She met with representatives from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, who provided historical documents indicating the lake originally was a mangrove-heavy, upper wetland area before it was excavated to create two lakes, joined by a channel, stocked with fish and connected to outfall pipes.

Burnett said the work was executed prior to Swiftmud assuming jurisdiction over the brackish lake.

“It is neither a freshwater system nor a saltwater system,” she said. “They deemed it as a brackish system,” adding that Swiftmud said the lake will “always be a brackish system.”

If the city wants to clean up Spring Lake and provide the best quality of water, the lake must be dredged, and an aeration system installed to preserve the saltwater-freshwater balance.

According to a bathymetric survey, the lowest depth is 7 feet, as compared to historical records from the time the lake was excavated, which state the depth was 10 feet.

“So there is 3 feet of muck at the bottom of Spring Lake, on average,” according to Burnett, who said core samples were taken to determine the level of pollution. Once those results are received, she recommends approaching Manatee County for assistance with dredging and disposing of the sludge.

“There’s a discussion that needs to happen with Manatee County after we know the actual composition,” Burnett said.

Additionally, two WaStop tidal regulating valves installed in 2017 in the lake as part of stormwater improvements must stay in place, Burnett recommended.

“Removing those would subject property owners to flooding, and (Swiftmud) would not support that request,” she said.

Removal of the valves would require a permit and put the city in jeopardy of losing a stormwater grant.

The next city commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, with a work session to follow.

Watching the tide

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Manatee County Marine Rescue lifeguards Joey Santos and Marshall Greene watch for any sign of distress on the beach. Under sunny skies, they reported lots of beachgoers enjoying the day Jan. 23 at the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach, where the temperature reached 83 degrees. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
A crowd gathers Jan. 23 to mingle and dance to the sound of the Sea Notes Jazz Band at the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell
Beachgoers walk the miles of white sand, while few people brave the 66-degree water in Gulf of Mexico Jan. 23 as afternoon winds kicked up the surf at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.