Environment

This map and aerial photograph shows the boundaries of the Small Islands.
North Florida Land Trust

The North Florida Land Trust has bought part of a Jacksonville Beach-area island chain to protect the undeveloped property’s islands and saltmarsh.

A volunteer workday is being held July 21, 2021 at Jacksonville's Castaway Island Preserve.
Timucuan Parks Foundation

The Timucuan Parks Foundation and JaxParks will be hosting a volunteer workday at Castaway Island Preserve on Wednesday, July 21.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers doubled funding for the Florida Forever land conservation program to $100 million. They also agreed to put $300 million from federal stimulus funding toward land conservation. This bill encourages much of the money to go to purchasing links in the wildlife corridor, providing a continuous path for animals to migrate.

According to a new study, high-tide flooding events are projected to increase rapidly beginning in 2033.

That will affect Florida communities along the Gulf of Mexico, including low-lying St. Petersburg neighborhoods like Shore Acres.

The study, published in the June 21 issue of the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, forecasts approximately seven days of high-tide flooding in St. Petersburg in 2023, but predicts almost 70 such days in 2033.

Lake Jackson Is Draining. Experts Say It's A Good Thing

Jun 23, 2021

Lake Jackson is nearly dry. The ground is mucky on this weekday morning and a few pools remain in places where the lakebed dips. Nearby water is flowing still from the north side of the lake in a rushing stream. It carves small valleys in the silt as it flows down into a sinkhole called Porter Hole Sink. From there, the water will drain into the Floridan Aquifer.

Several dozen people are visiting the lake on this day. Some worry Lake Jackson's dry-down is a sad marker of the changing climate, but scientists say it's actually a sign of a healthy lake.

RPI Report

Some three months after a barge ran aground off the Jacksonville coast, spilling thousands of tons of a coal waste product, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has released its report on the environmental damage. 

Pictured is a street in the Secret Woods subdivision on Jacksonville's Southside.
BILL BORTZFIELD / WJCT NEWS

Jacksonville is among 20 large U.S. cities with the most to gain from planting trees, according to a new tracking tool unveiled by American Forests, which is the nation’s oldest national conservation commission.

Work continues on the Barge Bridgeport
Barge Bridgeport Response

After about 90 days stranded off the Jacksonville coast, a barge called the Bridgeport has been re-floated. 

Wakulla Springs' Waters Are Clear For Now

Jun 21, 2021

Wakulla Springs is the worlds' largest and deepest freshwater spring. It was once famous for its crystal-clear waters. Tourists flocked to what's now Wakulla Springs State Park for a chance to look deep into the water on a glass-bottom boat tour. But the water has since darkened, and the tours haven't run in years. But for at least a moment, the waters are clear again.

DeSantis Could Bypass Cabinet On DEP Pick

Jun 16, 2021

Gov. Ron DeSantis suggested Tuesday he might not get sign-off from the state Cabinet for his next appointee to run the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Barge Bridgeport Response

Marine salvage crews are continuing to work on a 400-foot-long cargo ship carrying coal ash that ran aground near Jacksonville in March. 

A federal appeals court recently dealt a second blow to Florida citrus growers’ efforts to expand the use of a toxic pesticide.

Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’ Is Shrinking

Jun 10, 2021

Every year during the summer, several marine species in the Gulf of Mexico die after being exposed to a

Matthew Brown / Associated Press file photo

A U.S. Senate committee is working on a national “climate bank” proposal to funnel millions to infrastructure projects and focus on energy efficiency.

Work continues on the Barge Bridgeport
Barge Bridgeport Response

On March 14, 2021, a cargo ship called the Bridgeport departed Guayama, Puerto Rico, bound for a private port in Jacksonville. 

Red Tide Reported In Portions Of Tampa Bay

Jun 4, 2021

The Hillsborough County Health Department on Thursday reported a red tide bloom in the waters of lower and middle Tampa Bay.

Officials say the blooms are located near Moody Point, Manbirtee Key, Camp Key, and Little Cockroach Island.

They say the blooms could cause fish kills in some areas.

Residents may experience respiratory issues that can mirror a cold. Others with breathing problems, such as asthma, could experience more severe symptoms.

Anyone experiencing breathing issues should stay away from beach areas or remain indoors.

“So we are out here at Peanut Ridge, which is a reef in Apalachicola Bay,” Chris Matechik with the FSU Coastal and Marine Lab is driving a boat around experimental oyster plots marked by color-coded stakes. Oyster boats are pulling up between green-flagged stakes and dumping bins of rocks into the water.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein is exiting next week after running the agency for four years under two governors.

Shawn Hamilton, currently the state agency’s deputy secretary for land and recreation, will become Florida’s interim environmental secretary on June 4, the department confirmed on Thursday.

Broward is almost ready to buy 60 new electric school buses. First, though, the school district wants to set up charging stations, according to Vehicle Maintenance Manager Tommy Fitzpatrick.

“It’s better not to put the cart in front of the horse, so we want to make sure that infrastructure is sound and everything is in place before we bring in the buses," Fitzpatrick said.

A view of Downtown St. Augustine as seen from the western base of the Bridge of Lions.
Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News

The city of St. Augustine is following in Jacksonville's footsteps by offering homeowners a free tree, with planting included.

In South Florida, top considerations for choosing a new home have shifted, thanks to climate change.

“Before it was location, location, location. Now, it’s about elevation, elevation, elevation. The new buyer has to worry about both,” said George Jalil, broker and president at Miami Way Realty.

Sea level rise doesn’t top the list of buyer or seller concerns in South Florida — especially if you’re rich enough to afford the ever-skyrocketing costs of waterfront property — but for budget-conscious buyers, choosing the wrong home could have expensive consequences.

An appeals court Tuesday rejected a lawsuit in which eight young Florida residents sought to force the state to take steps to address climate change.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a decision last June by Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll to dismiss the case.

The panel did not give a detailed explanation, but cited Caroll’s conclusion that the case involved “nonjusticiable political questions.”

Seagrasses provide shelter and food to a diverse community of animals, from small invertebrates to large fish, crabs, turtles, marine mammals and birds.

Provisional results released earlier this month by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) show that Tampa Bay now harbors 35,240 acres of seagrass. That's a vast improvement from the 1990's when a plan was established to boost recovery of this vital part of the ecosystem.

A $75,000 study to look at how sea level rise will affect the city of Tampa is on its way to the city council.

Planners wrapped up the study during a final presentation Wednesday night.

Their recommendations include building seawalls and raising water and sewer lines in floodplains. In other areas, creating natural buffer zones would work better than pouring more concrete. And development densities should be reduced in low-lying areas, while being raised on higher ground.

Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News

Thanks to a long hurricane season, Florida is no stranger to an occasional gasoline supply disruption like the one hitting parts of the country right now. But electric vehicle (EV) owners are still waking up to a “full tank.” So, are EVs and plug-in hybrids better during emergencies?

Do Masks Work for Red Tide?

May 12, 2021

It seems those COVID masks might just be the thing to mitigate the harm of respiratory irritation due to red tide. Dr. Mike Parsons, professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University, explains that the cells that make up the toxic dinoflagellate can actually break up in the surf, and become a part of the sea spray. People can then breathe the toxin in, and that can lead to various levels of respiratory irritation, including an itchy, scratchy throat and a burning sensation.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman implored Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill that would override local regulation of energy sources.

The bill could short out efforts by Florida cities and counties to move to clean energy sources.

Castor, D-Tampa, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said the preemption was fueled by big energy companies.

Vampire bats could soon make their way into the United States from Mexico due to climate change and development, scientists say.

The possibility of a migration is concerning federal agriculture officials because the bats like to feast on the blood of large farm animals, while sometimes spreading rabies.

Florida is number three on the list of places where the bats could be headed in coming years.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, wants red tide forecasting to be included as essential work during federal government shutdowns through the Harmful Algal Bloom Essential Forecasting Act.

"It's really critical to Florida, especially when you look back, we had a 15-month timeframe where we had pretty intense red tide, all over water quality issues, so we just can't afford to be shut down," he said.

Red tide blooms have been reported in Sarasota and Charlotte counties this past week. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a Friday afternoon update that multiple fish kills in both counties are likely related to the toxic algae.

Manatee County does not have a recorded bloom, but low concentrations of the red tide organism Karenia brevis were observed there. Respiratory irritations were also reported in Manatee and Sarasota.

Pages