Recent appointments by our governor give me more hope than I’ve ever had on the state level. I am extremely disappointed in our cities and counties lack of insight; they are dumping sewage frequently and getting by saying they are sorry.
This is especially disheartening because we already know how our water quality can be improved. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Chesapeake Bay programs are making headway on several fronts: Improving water quality, reducing pollution inputs, and rebuilding their oyster population.
Gov. DeSantis is attacking our water programs aggressively and appointing people who are very qualified to understand and address our real problems. Ron Bergeron, appointed to the South Florida Water Management District board, and Dr. Tom Frazier as our state’s first-ever chief science officer, are true experts — they care about our future.
I’ve worked with both of these men, and I believe in their integrity and dedication to our natural resources. I’m convinced they can and will contribute positive ideas and workable solutions, if we allow them to do their jobs. They have a wealth of firsthand understanding of our waters and ecosystems. There is hope, but it will take time and cooperation from other government bodies — especially our legislators.
Governments do not normally work quickly. There are many good reasons for this, but this time they need to get our problems turned around now! We do need to use our voices to promote working solutions. We must be careful not to allow distractions to derail our goals. We must stay vigilant and focused to save our waters. There is serious big money in development and other powerful business interests that would rather see us focused on celebrity gossip or fighting each other.
We have momentum, but we need serious traction and dedication. There are many groups keeping water quality on our radar. This is the time to make sure we are reducing our nutrient inputs — each of us, everywhere we can. Don’t just blame the big problems. Remember, solutions start at home for all of us.
I am shocked that our local governments get by with continuing to dump untreated or partially treated waste into our waters. Sarasota and Venice have an appalling record of adding to our water problems. They need to be forced to cease and desist yesterday. This is criminal and must stop now!
Suncoast Waterkeeper is preparing to file lawsuits on Sarasota County under the Clean Water Act. They say that Sarasota’s Bee Ridge waste water treatment plant has continued to discharge between 2.5 and 3 million gallons of waste water daily into the Phillippi Creek watershed. According to the suit, this has been going on since 2013.
The amount of nutrients equals the amount of all the septic systems along the creek; doubling the nutrient load put into our waters. This has been a huge contributor to our red tide problems for a decade at least. It must stop! With Midnight Pass closed, much of these nutrients end up flowing out of Venice Inlet.
Venice has been a habitual offender also, dumping whenever we have a big rain event. Their Gulf beaches are closed frequently because of sewage spills. I believe much of our red tide and fish population reduction is a direct result of these spills. Our algae problems are fed by these nutrients too.
OK, we have problems — what can we do? Consider what the Chesapeake Bay restoration folks are doing, which is working. Here is an excerpt from an article I found at ChesapeakeBay.net:
The Chesapeake Bay Program measures progress toward the achievement of water quality standards in the Bay using three environmental factors: dissolved oxygen, underwater grass abundance (to measure water clarity) and chlorophyll-a.
• Chlorophyll-a: Last year we saw a reduction in chlorophyll-a, a measure of algae growth. Large algae blooms can block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses, causing them to die. As they decompose, the water loses oxygen, which fish and other underwater life need to survive.
• Underwater grasses: Underwater grasses absorb excess nutrients and need clear water to thrive. In 2018, the acreage of grasses increased, indicating that the water was clear of algae blooms and excess sediment.
• Dissolved oxygen: Just like humans, underwater life needs oxygen to survive. An increase in dissolved oxygen, like we saw last year, means that blue crabs, striped bass and other critters had more access to a resource they need to survive.
This year the Chesapeake was 40 percent cleaner than it was at its worst, but it’s taken 35 years to get to this point. I know this is a long time, but we have been polluting for much longer. Improvements are closely linked to reduced nitrogen loads from its watersheds.
This is helping reduce algae and increase the healthy seagrasses. Also, their oyster programs are showing impressive positive results, producing food-quality oysters and cleaner waters. Clams can help also.
These are win-win opportunities, and we can duplicate here. Look up these types of successful campaigns that are working for other areas. We don’t have to figure everything out — we need to use the resources we have available to research how others are dealing with the same issues.
Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.