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Tuesday
Jun272017

Tuesday
Jun272017

Okeechobee Water Storage Reservoir Receives Funding Boost

A bill signed into law by Florida Gov. Rick Scott will provide additional funding and accelerate the strategy to build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, with the goal of reducing harmful, nutrient-laden releases into coastal estuaries.

"With today's signing of Senate Bill 10, Governor Scott has shown his strong commitment to advancing Everglades restoration," said Kellie Ralston, Florida Fishery Policy Director of the American Sportfishing Association.

Directing excess water south also will help replenish the Everglades and provided much needed freshwater flow into Florida Bay. That occurred naturally before the lake was impounded decades ago to protect towns and farm lands on the south side from flooding, especially during hurricanes.

Enacting Lake Okeechobee Water Resources Legislation has been a top priority of Senate President Joe Negron.

"Thank you to Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their leadership in preserving and protecting Florida's natural resources," said Gary Jennings, Director of Keep Florida Fishing. "This will ensure that Florida remains the 'Fishing Capital of the World' for generations to come."


Meanwhile, plans to build a storage reservoir north of Lake Okeechobee continue to be advanced as well. Late last year, the project team for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project (LOWP) evaluated possible sites for storage and treatment of the nutrient-rich water that flows into the lake from the Kissimmee River watershed.

LOWP is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which is focused on restoration from the Kissimmee River to Florida Bay. CERP was authorized by Congress in 2000 "to restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem, while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection." It's a $10.5 billion project expected to require 35 years for completion.

In addition to considering location options for a reservoir, the project team also is considering aquifer storage and recovery wells. Wetlands restoration is a part of the plan as well, but the emphasis is on storing water, not water quality.

“At the end of the day, we want a project that ultimately will result in Congressional authorization,” said John Campbell, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers. “We know we can do that by focusing on storage.”

He added that the public will invited to review options sometime during 2017. "By 2018, we would select one of those alternatives and start developing details," Campbell said.

Environmental and sportsmen groups argue that a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, with a return to more natural flow, is best way to deal with excess water that has caused algae blooms and fish kills on both coasts. Communities and agricultural interests to the south of the lake generally favor storage on the north end.

Sunday
Jun252017

Sunday
Jun252017

Florida Anglers Asked to Help Monitor Fish Health, Report Kills

With summer here, now more than any other time of year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) needs your help in monitoring fish health by tracking marine and freshwater fish kills in Florida.

Hot weather can cause fish kills, in part because warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. In addition, a lack of rain during hot-weather months can lower water level in lakes and ponds, resulting in poor water quality, increased density of animals and faster use of dissolved oxygen.

Heavy rains can compound the situation by suspending sediments in the water column and by washing vegetation, such as leaves and grass clippings, into the system where they  decompose, burning up oxygen.

Sudden temperature fluctuations or extreme temperatures, meanwhile, can result in fish kills any time of the year. The good news is that most natural water bodies are resilient to fish kill events.

FWC scientists monitor and document these kills and related diseases, as well as other aquatic animal health issues and associated environmental events.

“The public’s involvement is critical to locate, monitor and understand the extent of fish kills. Reporting observations to the hotline ensures a coordinated response to incidents and alleviates public concern,” said Theresa Cody, associate research scientist. “All the data collected from fish kill events are used in conjunction with directed research to further understand the causes of fish kills and disease incidences.”

You can report fish kills at MyFWC.com/FishKill or by calling the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511. You also can submit a report through the “FWC Reporter” app on your iOS or Android mobile devices. It is not necessary to report fish kills in man-made retention or private ponds to the FWC. The Fish Kill Hotline is sponsored in part by a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program grant.

Friday
Jun232017

Shimano/B.A.S.S. Award Conservation Scholarships to Four

Logan Parks from Alabama (left) and Patrick Durand of New Jersey are two of the scholarship winners.Shimano, in conjunction with B.A.S.S. Conservation, has named the winners of its 2017 Shimano Varsity Program scholarships.

All with goals to have careers in fisheries and wildlife management fields, student anglers earning the college funds include Nicolas Boyett and Chase Ditchkoff from Georgia, Patrick Durand from New Jersey, and Logan Parks from Alabama. Each student will receive a $3,000 scholarship to pursue college degrees in biology, fisheries, wildlife or natural resources.

Shimano Youth Fishing Director Frank Hyla said, “Assisting young anglers and their passion for a career in helping assure there are excellent fishing resources for the next generation is one of the keystone goals of our Shimano Varsity Program. All of us with Shimano couldn’t be happier that in our first year with the scholarship program, we were able to select four outstanding future college freshman.

"Plus they are all pretty good bass anglers.”

From Climax, Ga., Boyett graduated from Bainbridge High School, and plans to major in wildlife management at Bainbridge State College. One day he hopes to own or manage a fishing or hunting operation.

With a goal of working for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources after studying fisheries at West Georgia University, Alexander High School grad Ditchkoff from Lithia Springs, Ga., earned a varsity sports letter from fishing on his school’s team. Alexander High is the first school in the country to honor its student athletes with awards for fishing.

A graduate of Cherry Hill High School in Cherry Hill, N.J., Durand is the founder of the Cherry Hill Outdoorsman Club. He is majoring in environmental science at the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, and plans a career in the environmental field.

Along with being a co-founder of the Auburn High School bass team and serving as the team president, Logan Parks from Auburn, Ala., designed and implemented a fishing line recycling project at seven sites around Alabama’s Lake Logan Martin. He will major in fisheries or agri-business at Auburn University.

With the noted decline in professional natural resource managers who fish, “the goal in working with B.A.S.S. to recruit students who already enjoy fishing and are interested in natural resource professions will pay off with these four outstanding young men,” said Phil Morlock, Vice President for Government Affairs/Advocacy at Shimano.

“We are already looking forward to even more interest in the scholarship program next year, and more interest among young anglers to pursue careers in fish and wildlife management fields.”