State awards $1.8 million to Rainbow River Restoration Project

State awards $1.8 million to Rainbow River Restoration Project

Photo: Sean Arnold, Riverland News

“A pilot project to remove muck and invasive plants in the lower Rainbow River was awarded a $1.8 million grant in the latest Florida budget signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 15.

The Rainbow River Restoration Project was launched by Art Jones and his nonprofit, One Rake at a Time, Inc., to vacuum and scoop large mats of algae and invasive hydrilla and plant native eelgrass in the hopes that the eelgrass beds can outcompete the hydrilla and eliminate the need to deploy herbicides.

Jones said the grant will fund the completion of a survey to determine the scope of the muck in the lower 25 acres of the river. It will also contribute to the design of a work plan to remove the muck and debris and the water testing process. He said the survey is 80 percent finished and is due to be completed within the next month. The survey is required for additional government assistance in the five-year project…

Jones said the river has been declining since at least the time when phosphate mining descended into the area. ‘People have just taken from the river, leaving whatever mess they made for others to clean up,’ he said. ‘It’s time to give back.’

Springs watch dogs such as the Florida Springs Council report that most of the river’s deterioration is due to increased nitrate concentration from agricultural runoff. Jones said even if the sources of the problem were fixed tomorrow, the muck would remain. ‘Those things will help in the future and are in process now, but it will take years to accomplish,’ he said. ‘We need to start cleaning up the river now, at the same time – a two-prong approach. This grant, while not a magic wand, is at least a start.’

Jones hosts monthly meetings on the Rainbow River Restoration Project at Holy Faith Episcopal in Dunnellon.

Visit to learn more about the restoration project and volunteering opportunities.”

— Sean Arnold, Riverland News

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Turning Beach Trash to Art “The Washed Up Project”

Turning Beach Trash to Art “The Washed Up Project”

Photos: Beach Junki, Fernandina Beach, Florida

“The Washed Up Project

The purpose of the Washed Up Project is to collect marine debris and create ocean art that will bring awareness to the plastic pollution washing up.

Amelia the Sea Turtle

Our first Washed Up Project is the Amelia Sea Turtle created by local talented artist, Sandra Baker-Hinton. Amelia was contructed from washed up sunglasses, bottle caps, plastic pieces. Amelia is currently displayed at Seaside. You can find Sandra at Clay Times Art Center in downtown Fernandina Beach.

Shrimpers Paradise

The second project, Shrimpers Paradise, is also constructed from marine debris. It was created by a young talented artist, Kazuki Roca. The items used to construct the shrimp are shotgun shells, and fishing lures. Shrimpers Paradise is currently displayed at Main Beach in Fernandina, next to the Beach Toy Borrow Box.”

— Beach Junki, Fernandina Beach, Florida

Visit Beach Junki here

FDOT: “Litter reduction and protecting our beaches”

FDOT: “Litter reduction and protecting our beaches”

Photo: Dirk Shadd, Tampa Times

“Pockets of open space dot Gandy Beach. Each one is an opening to the blue waters of Tampa Bay, canopied by billowing mangroves. It’s picturesque — just don’t look too close.

If you did, then you might see the beer can peeking out of the sand like a burrowed crab. Or the plastic bag swaying from a mangrove branch.

The empty gallon of water sitting squarely near the shore? Well, that’s a little harder to miss.

But the Florida Department of Transportation is hoping a new project will stop people from littering and parking in the mangroves at Gandy Beach in St. Petersburg. The agency is spending about $70,000 to install bollards — large wooden posts — in front of mangroves lining the beach, Kristen Carson, a spokesperson for the department, said in an email Wednesday.

Gandy Beach averages about 8,000 pounds of trash a day that’s picked up as both litter and from trash cans, according to Carson.

Dana Paganelli, a frequent visitor to the beach, says she’s happy about the bollards. She floated near the shore Wednesday in a pastel-colored pool float. Usually, she said, she’ll bring her own bag and fill it with the garbage she finds at the beach and throw it out later…

The Florida Department of Transportation began installing the posts last week, and the entire project will wrap up in about two weeks. Carson said the agency expects to install about 880 posts.

After the bollards are installed and cars can no longer reach the shore, the agency’s maintenance contractor will begin planting small mangroves in the open areas where the plant could not grow previously due to car traffic…”

— Michaela Mulligan, Times

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Littering: “4th-grader works to educate others on the issue of cigarette butts littering Florida beaches”

Littering: “4th-grader works to educate others on the issue of cigarette butts littering Florida beaches”

Video: Orlando News 13

“Shells and sand aren’t the only things you’ll see on Florida’s beaches — cigarette butts are also a common sight.

According to a 2021 report from Ocean Conservancy and International Coastal Cleanup, cigarettes were the number one trash item found at beaches in 2020, with 964,521 recorded. Plastic bottles followed with 627,014 recorded and 573,534 food wrappers found.

It’s an issue fourth-grader Robert Dhingra wanted to do something about. Dhingra, who lives in Cocoa Beach, said he really began noticing all the cigarette butts back in January, which bothered him, especially because he didn’t see places for people to dispose of them safely.

‘There should be receptacle cans for cigarettes too because if you put them in the regular trash cans, the trash could catch fire,’ Dhingra said.

He and his mom, Mina Sharma, started going out once a week on the beach near their apartment and picking up butts for an hour or more at a time.

But when he kept noticing them, Dhingra decided just cleanup wasn’t enough. He wanted to call attention to the issue. So, the then third-grade student penned an op-ed for a local newspaper…

He also created a presentation, which he showcased at his elementary school for the teachers and students.

During the 2022 legislative session, Republican State Sen. Joe Gruter introduced a bill that would allow counties and municipalities to establish bans on smoking in both state parks and on public beaches, which was signed into law and will go into effect on July 1.”

— By Will Robinson-Smith Brevard County, Orlando News 13

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Jacksonville: “Long awaited regulations arrive for waterways”

Jacksonville: “Long awaited regulations arrive for waterways”

Photo: FWC in Resident News

” …The City of Jacksonville is on the cusp of limiting long-term anchoring in the city’s waterways, and the highly-trafficked Ortega River in particular, to 45 days.

It didn’t take an act of Congress, just the Florida Legislature, and cooperation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) that controls the state’s waterways, plus a local push from Jacksonville City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor and the city’s Waterways Commission.

Derelict vessels and the troubles they bring to the Ortega River and the larger St. Johns River are not new but they’ve become more common in recent years, residents say.

They damage other boats and docks in storms, serve as low rent housing and appear as eyesores against otherwise scenic vistas. But the river blight has united the many parties in cooperation of a common goal: improving traffic conditions for boaters, many of whom live and/or play on the river.

Councilwoman DeFoor put it like this for landlubbers; imagine an old car in disrepair. It may still run but it’s not your weekend piddle project. It’s just parked in front of your house. For months on end. And you can’t do anything to move it.

That will soon change for derelict boats, however.

Two new city ordinances moving toward approval should improve traffic on the river. One measure will remove a nuisance vessel from the Ortega River via a state grant program funded from a portion of boater registration fees. The cost is $30,000.

Another ordinance crafted by Councilwoman DeFoor will prohibit vessels from serving as long-term housing by capping anchoring periods in the high traffic parts of the St. Johns River, like the Ortega River, to 45 days.

‘Neighbors who live along the Ortega River brought this issue to my attention when I was running for office,’ explained Councilwoman DeFoor by email. ‘I’ve been a boater my whole life and I understand the joy and responsibilities of owning a boat. Lisa Grubba, Mike Barker, and other neighbors shared their concerns with me and because the waterways are controlled by the state we brought Representative Wyman Duggan in on the conversations…

‘We can’t let the Ortega River fill up like a junkyard,’ added Mr. Barker.”

— Joel Addington, Resident Community News

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Legal: Beach trash collection Vs. private property  “Walton County trashes private beach garbage collection”

Legal: Beach trash collection Vs. private property “Walton County trashes private beach garbage collection”

Photo: NWF Daily News

“…Walton County is notifying coastal private property owners that its crews will no longer collect garbage from the beaches at their homes or condominiums.

County Attorney Sidney Noyes told county commissioners Tuesday that enough owners had refused to back off previous requests to keep county vehicles off their land to warrant the decision to halt all garbage collections.

‘Unfortunately, even though some of these individual private property owners have rescinded their requests, others are not willing to, so it looks like we will not be able to continue the garbage collection service on private property,’ Noyes told the board.

Noyes said letters would be sent out Tuesday or Wednesday to inform all owners that as of Aug. 13 they would be responsible for picking up their own beach trash, something Walton’s Tourist Development Council has done for years…

The county’s move is the latest fallout from the July 1 implementation of a new state law. HB 631 wiped out Walton County’s customary use ordinance and gave private beachfront owners the ability to post no trespassing signs on their property and prevent people from accessing dry sand areas there…

Sheriff Michael Adkinson, whose deputies have been called upon regularly since July 1 to mediate property disputes on local beaches, has said consistently his deputies are not going to charge anyone on the beach with criminal trespass.

Nonetheless, Commission Chairman Bill Chapman argued at Tuesday’s meeting that the county couldn’t risk collecting trash on private property for fear an arrest would result.

‘I don’t want to see legal action taken, criminally, by our guys going up and down there and picking up the trash,’ Chapman said. ‘I don’t want guys driving being subjected to arrest by the sheriff because we’ve violated a demand letter.’

..Litigation seems to be on the horizon. Attorney and customary use advocate Steve Uhlfelder warned commissioners Tuesday that by refusing garbage collection the private property owners were strengthening an argument against customary use. He urged them to continue sending crews to pick up trash in defiance of the no trespassing warnings.

‘Don’t go along with it. Go pick up the trash and maintain the beaches, otherwise you will be giving up some legal arguments,’ Uhlfelder said. “I don’t think you should be dictated to’…”

— Tom McLaughlin,
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