An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Seminole County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Winter Springs improving 5 stormwater ponds ahead of hurricane season

Bucket after bucket of sand, dirt, decomposing leaves and grass is scooped out of one of five stormwater ponds under the city of Winter Springs' care.

"This is all about moving the water from one place to the other as efficiently and effectively as possible," said Matt Reeser, the city's communications officer.

This is day one of a project to improve the effectiveness of those ponds.

Winter Springs had significant flooding during Hurricane Ian, but that was a historic rain event which caused flooding all over. What they're not doing is making the ponds themselves any deeper. What they are doing is removing buildup of sediment from in front of the stormwater pipe. When that stuff gets in front of that pipe, it makes it harder for the water to clear.

"Dirt and grit that comes in off the streets, you have debris from trees, leaves, all of that stuff gets into the stormwater pipe and moves toward the stormwater ponds and as that builds up it backs up into the streets," Reeser said.

A few weeks ago, crews were clearing sediment out of creeks and streams to make them flow better. Now this is the same effort to clear the outflow from stormwater pipes, to reduce any flooding threats.

"You're not going to stop all of it, but the better you can manage the stormwater runoff, the less likely you'll have severe impacts from flooding," Reeser said.

A grant is paying for 75% of the $169,000 for the work, leaving the city to pay about $42,000 – all to make the system in place work the way it was designed.

Decades-old maps don’t fully capture Central Florida’s flooding risk

Flooding can be tough to predict. For Central Florida communities relying on official flood maps that are almost 20 years old, it can be even more difficult.

A lot has changed in two decades, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood maps don’t fully account for all those changes: like development, stormwater infrastructure, and climate change.

But importantly, the scope of FEMA flood maps is limited to begin with. The maps are designed primarily to illustrate where one, specific type of flood is most likely to occur: the 100-year flood.

Also called a Special Flood Hazard Area or SFHA, the 100-year floodplain is an area with at least a 1% chance of flooding each year. But it’s a bit of a deceptive term, according to Seminole County Public Works Project Manager Jeff Sloman.

“What's called a 100-year flood, is defined as a storm event that, statistically, has a 1% chance of occurring every year. It's not a storm that occurs every hundred years,” Sloman said.

In fact, in the last five years alone, nearly half of U.S. counties experienced a flood event, according to FEMA. And nationally, 40% of flood insurance claims come from outside the 100-year floodplain.

“Binary views, the ‘in or out’ of a flood zone, can lead to the misconception that properties outside of the FEMA flood zone are safe from flooding,” a FEMA spokesperson wrote in an email to Central Florida Public Media. “There is no such thing as a ‘no-risk zone.’”

US Circuit Court of Appeals nixes Florida’s request for a stay in a wetlands permitting fight

Rejecting arguments by Florida and business groups, an appeals court Monday refused to put on hold a U.S. district judge’s ruling in a battle about permitting authority for projects that affect wetlands.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued an order that said Florida “has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay” while an appeal of U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss’ ruling plays out. The order did not provide further explanation.

The case, which is closely watched by business and environmental groups, stems from a 2020 decision by the federal government to shift permitting authority to the state for projects that affect wetlands. Moss in February ruled that actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in approving the shift violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

Sanford begins flood relief project along Mellonville Avenue

SANFORD — The city of Sanford is working to address drainage issues in part of the city as part of a $2 million project dubbed the Mellonville Avenue Drainage Improvement Project.

The city of Sanford is currently building a new pond to relieve flooding in the area of Mellonville Avenue near 20th Street

Residents say they were taken a bit by surprise by the project, though a city spokesperson says flyers were sent out two weeks ago and social media posts were made

The project is set to be completed sometime next spring

Florida's outdated urban drainage systems cause more flooding, but there' a natural solution

In the 1900s, swamps and low-lying areas were drained to create more space for development and farming.

Florida has a lot of altered drainage networks, like ditches and canals, but at a recent resiliency summit in Clearwater, it became clear that these are increasingly becoming obsolete and can actually make flooding worse.

There are 80,000 linear miles of stream channels in Florida, and almost two-thirds of those are ditches and canals.

These water systems were originally put in to drain parts of the state for development.

But John Kiefer, an environmental engineer with Black & Veatch who moderated a panel discussion on the subject at the Regional Resiliency Summit, said these are not stable.

"They require perennial maintenance, otherwise they erode — sometimes catastrophically, sometimes chronically," Kiefer told the audience in one of the breakout rooms at the Hilton Clearwater Beach.

He said the eroding sediment could plug up openings, compounding the flooding that's already increasing from climate change.

Along with sea level rise, warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate from the land and oceans, creating more frequent and heavier rain events.

Kiefer also said altering the landscape causes problems for wildlife, so some fish don't have access to proper water bodies, for instance.

"So, what is the cure? Well, the cure can follow a gradient from near to natural solutions to highly engineered ones," Kiefer said.

These systems can be re-patterned so they process water and sediment more naturally.

Take Sarasota County's Phillippi Creek Watershed, for example.

Kiefer said 95 of the 100 miles of canals there are eligible for this kind of restoration, but a project like this could cost $2 million per mile.

City of Casselberry launches conservation program around native plants

ORLANDO – When the wrong things take root, it can feel a lot like Groundhog Day.

But yanking out weeds on a regular basis doesn’t phase Nancy Rudner, who bought a home in Casselberry. She understands ensuring native plants thrive is not just about aesthetics. Native plants serve as a buffer between her property and Queen’s Mirror Lake.

Those plants clean the water, serve as habitat for wildlife and help with erosion control and shoreline stabilization.

“Having native plants certainly helps the eco-balance. And that’s really important,” she said.

It’s why Rudner volunteers to sample the water monthly for the University of Florida’s Lake Watch program, and why the homeowner recently reached out to the city of Casselberry to take part in a new program.

Rudner filled out an application to be on the receiving end of free native plants, available to lake-dwelling homeowners on 24 different bodies of water.

The program was spearheaded by Nick Cooper, a natural resources officer for the Seminole County city.

Cooper, who has worked in the field of conservation for the past 10 years, said that it will be the first time Casselberry is launching such a program. The goal is to be “good stewards of the environment.”

Governor announces investments in Wildlife Corridor, red tide mitigation

For the second day in a row, DeSantis focused on environmental investments.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation to boost red tide research and direct funding toward expanding Florida’s Wildlife Corridor.

“With the investments we’re getting, we’re on our way to linking these areas so that we can promote safe and stabilized species movements,” DeSantis said.

The Governor signed the legislation in Naples, a region Senate President Kathleen Passidomo represents. Environmental investments had been chief priorities for Passidomo during the past two Legislative Sessions.

DeSantis at the event stressed the need to preserve Florida’s environment for future generations to enjoy. The announcements Tuesday came a day after DeSantis also promised a $1.5 billion investment in Everglades restoration and other water improvement projects.

In fighting red tide algal blooms, DeSantis signed mitigation legislation (HB 1565) extending a partnership between the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and More Marine Laboratory in Sarasota to study prevention and mitigation technologies.

Jason Kirby volunteers with ‘SERV’ to help clean Seminole’s waterways

CASSELBERRY – There are people who love getting wet and muddy for a living, and there are people who love to volunteer to do that.

Everyday Hero Jason Kirby falls into both of those categories. He volunteers his time to clean up Central Florida’s waterways. It wasn’t his career path, but he happened to fall into it.

“My educational background is technology, so it couldn’t be further from what I went to school for,” Kirby said.

He went to school at Seminole State College, formerly known as Seminole Community College. It was a turning point in his life.

“As a little kid, I was the weird one playing around in swamps and catching snakes and turtles and things like that. So, I kind of fell into the industry right out of college,” Kirby said.

Kirby owns a Lake and Wetland Management Solutions Company, and loves it so much he volunteers to go into the water to yank invasive plants and replace them with good stuff. The goal is to keep water quality first rate. It’s not just plants, he’ll get rid of any trash he sees.

Kirby volunteers with the Seminole Education Restoration and Volunteer Program, SERV for short. It works to protect waterways through education and restoration projects. Education is also what he does with his young daughter.

“She just recently got involved, about a year ago,” Kirby said. “We have a lot of SERV events at several different water bodies throughout the county.”

To learn more about the SERV program that Kirby volunteers with, and to get involved, visit this page.

Over 170 volunteers clean up St. Johns River shoreline and area parks ahead of Earth Day

SANFORD – It’s Earth Day weekend and Seminole County along with the city of Sanford and the St. Johns Riverkeeper have all partnered together to keep parks alongside the St. Johns River clean of waste.

Seminole County, City of Sanford and the St. Johns Riverkeeper partnered together for St. Johns River Cleanup

About 175 volunteers went out to protect Seminole County's waterways by removing litter from the St. Johns River and its shoreline on Earth Day weekend

The event is part of the St. Johns Riverkeeper's collaborative, month-long Great St. Johns River Cleanup, hosted by partners throughout the watershed.

For more information, visit the link below.