Seagrass Survey for Sarasota County to be conducted on June 15, with Southwest Florida Water Management District having reported declines in past two years

County to host family-friendly festival along with survey activities

Sarasota Bay Estuary Program volunteers engage in the seagrass survey in 2017. Photo courtesy of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program

This month, Sarasota County’s Seagrass Survey will be conducted for the fifth year, county staff has announced.

“This free, fun and family-friendly event on Saturday, June 15,” will provide the public hands-on opportunities to learn about seagrass habitat, a news release points out. “Registered volunteers will take to the waters in and around Sarasota Bay to count and identify seagrass species, in an effort to collect data for the county’s Seagrass Monitoring Program,” the release adds. “No previous experience is necessary, but registration is required.”

After the survey, a free festival with nature-themed games, crafts and educational booths will be held until 2 p.m. It also will feature live music and food trucks, the release notes.

“The Seagrass Survey celebrates Sarasota County’s commitment to protecting its water resources and focuses on increasing awareness of the economic and environmental value of seagrass habitat,” the release says.

Research has shown a decline in seagrasses in area bays, presenters told the audience at the Sarasota County Water Summit on June 5.

The most significant declines were marked in Little Sarasota Bay and Blackburn Bay from 2016 to 2018, Mark Alderson, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, pointed out.

“Seagrasses are the canary in the coal mine,” he added in discussing the increasing amount of nitrogen entering area waterways. “You reach a tipping point,” he said. With too much nitrogen, he continued, “You begin to see those declines.

A 2015 SWFWMD graph shows details about seagrass coverage in Sarasota Bay. Image courtesy Southwest Florida Water Management District
This graphic presented to Water Quality Summit attendees on June 5 shows more details about seagrass coverage. Image courtesy Sarasota Bay Estuary Program

Asked during the summit if he could explain why the declines were so dramatic in Little Sarasota and Blackburn bays, Alderson replied, “We don’t know the answer to that question at the present time.”

County staff, Alderson continued, would be updating its pollution-loading model for the region, “so we hope to tease out where the issues are.”

Chuck Walter, the county’s Stormwater Division manager, added that the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) compiled the seagrass acreage estimates presented to the Water Quality Summit audience. The Stormwater Division also creates very detailed maps of the bays, he indicated, so staff would try to determine the source of the problems in the areas where the acreage has diminished.

Seagrasses provide food and shelter to many marine species, the seagrass survey news release explains. “They are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Seventy percent of Florida’s fisheries species, including scallops, crabs, shrimp, grouper and snapper, spend part of their lives in seagrass beds,” the release notes.

The June 15 event, an initiative in partnership with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, will be held at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, which is located at 1717 Ken Thompson Parkway in Sarasota.

The following is the agenda for the survey and festival:

  • Volunteer sign-in — 7:30 to 8 a.m.
  • On-site volunteer training — 8 to 9 a.m.
  • Data collection — 9 a.m. to noon.
  • Volunteer lunch — noon to 1 p.m.
  • Free festival — noon to 2 p.m.

To register or for more information, call the county Contact Center at 861-5000 or visit scgov.net.

1 thought on “Seagrass Survey for Sarasota County to be conducted on June 15, with Southwest Florida Water Management District having reported declines in past two years”

  1. Why does City Manager, Tom “red Tide” Barwin, Say it’s environmentally friendly to dredge an un-needed 2 mile long, 500 wide x 16’ deep cut right thought our critical sea grass/estuary?

    Thought you may like to know… Dredging project is NOT even needed as it no longer even meets any threshold. Now that the real sand counts are in, and the amount of sand has drastically been reduced = This means the legal athorized sand source areas available has enough sand.

    Per City Commission office, the City/Manatee County agreement is BACK ON the City’s July 1st agenda to be considered. Hopefully, This will be Mr. Barwin’s last day as City Manager. The question still remains… HOW LONG WILL WE SIT BY AND ALLOW THIS CITY “STAFF MEMBER” TO DESTROY SARASOTA?

    Besides, The site picked COULD NEVER FUNCTIONAL AS NEEDED! It’s scientifically impossible.
    – the site DOES NOT enough salinity (It’s a bird sanctuary at the mouth of the river for crying out loud)…
    – the location/grass has no natural flushing features
    – It is affected by algae. i.e. it’s not a healthy site.

    Cannot mitigate seagrass outside of Sarasota County. Barwin is STILL not giving his commission real information (I even provided to him on record). Why is he again rushing to have his board’s July 1st agenda for approval of the mitigation contract with Manatee County? Mr. Barwin may very well be taking advantage of Manatee Commission’s recess and there’s a lot of information Mr. Barwin is not sharing with Manatee.

    ISSUES:

    Barwin legally cannot use this site nor now can even consider it and ALL parties below do NOT agree with him.

    – We had Dr. Gilmore do a comprehensive analyst, which I’ve provided Barwin numerous times- As you know I’m fact based.
    – Suncoast waterkeepers are against this.
    – USACOE NOW agrees it is NOT needed. See attached. per USACOE. The project never should have been considered as it does not meet the threshold. Hints why SRQ County commissioners demanded an EIS. The SAND VOLUME CHANGED (i.e. Calculated correctly now, and IT HOLDS NO SAND to speak of). The sand volume needed to be wasn’t what Barwin said it was, HE LIED!!
    – FDEP AGREES he can’t do this, It requires that City be in compliance with local laws and ordinances. (City ordinance says they will not damage seagrass).
    – SBE – As City signed contract to follow Sarasota Bay Estuary. This as well as sewage dumping if not being followed.
    – ALJ agrees he cannot do this… ALJ put condition #3 on the permit (follow all local and state ordinances/laws). ORDINANCE specifically says he can’t MITIGATE OUTSIDE THE county – Seagrass mitigation must be done within Sarasota County, not “Manatee”. Attached is the County’s WNCA ordinance that implements 4.6.1. Page 15 has the highlighted rule that requires mitigation within Sarasota County see rule 54.656. (7).(d).2. Page 6 says that exemptions are available for maintenance work and the part on page 7 says gov are exempt BUT the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass is 100% NOT maintenance work and County 4.6.1 States all NEW dredging and beach nourishment MUST go through COUNTY BCC vote and must be in publics best interest and environmentally safe. Exemption there is maintenance work like fixing a dock or keeping a previously dredged canal open, Big Pass is natural was never dredged. Barwin states a Gov. municipalities with-in municipalities are exempt. Well, if that were true it would NOT state that a citizen can file an injunction against Government. <CASE CLOSED

    With all the things going on with our water quality… I believe this is an “in your face” to County as County administrator. Ordinances can’t be waived or can proper channels be ignored. per the ACOE, both City and Manatee County would have to agree on the changes to begin with further consideration. Can’t mitigate seagrass from Sarasota to outside Sarasota County.

    Barwin is acting lawless.. He is jumping over local and state laws, ordinances and agreements by use of zero mechanize – That’s NOT illegal? Alluding to have NEEDED FDEP, ALJ, Manatee Commissioners, SBE, FDEP, FWC, and Mote’s blessings is NOT morally corrupt? i.e. Fraud for his self-serving needs at the expense of the critical estuary CANNOT HAPPEN.

    Then we have his misallocations of public funds and the sewage dumping.. Even Vern’s letter states this area mitigates red tide.

    Issue of 2018:

    Basically, because we build on the coast, when it rains, Storm-water infiltrates the ground rising the groundwater table above the wastewater pipes… the pressure of this groundwater forces water into deteriorated pipes going to the wastewater treatment plant. Therefore the treatment plant gets this surge of inflow that it is not size to handle, forcing overflows to occur. Sea Grasses within big pass and the critters that call it home are Mother Nature’s #1 tool to combat red tide.

    Before and after “June” 2018, our outbreak of red tide SHOULD and COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED.

    First off, By properly addressing lift station projects. Instead, city’s was it blundered, then in a lawsuit with the hired contractor (which city lost legal action)? Possibly because city manager decided to kick the can down the road as he didn’t properly budget to fix correctly.. Then city falsely reports forced sewage dumping as “groundwater releasing” merely to cover up the issue so a.) they don’t have to spend $ to fix it correctly b.) so County doesn’t force them to. – Out of sight, out of mind approach. The county is ultimately responsible for sewers so it won’t fall on Barwin (even though “it’s supposed to be his job”).

    City falsely reports forced sewage dumping as “groundwater releasing” merely to cover up the issue so a.) they don’t have to spend $ to fix it correctly b.) so County doesn’t force them to. – Out of sight, out of mind approach. The county is ultimately responsible for sewers so it won’t fall on Barwin (even though “it’s supposed to be his job”).

    2018: In late June Barwin forced dumped sewage directly into Sarasota Bay, which I reported and tested. The County waited a week to come out so attached incident report could state “unfounded”. I then called Mr. Barwin, he himself told me it was only groundwater releasing and that’s how he’s will be handling it. (Obviously, the incident report was twisted wording, so not report to FDEP.

    Immediately following Barwin’s “groundwater releasing” in late June- SRQ Bay spiked from green to red level, red-tide count.

    SRQ BAY was at same “high red tide count” when west winds and currents pushed Lake O’s release to Sarasota.

    Then in December, Barwin yet again dumped nearly a million gallons directly on the same hot spot. This time he blamed it on a main broken pipe after I sent news crew out to catch him red-handed. He had the audacity to state “that lift station pipe should last 100 years”.

    CRIMINAL? You decide

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