County addresses red tide

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Red tide remains off Anna Maria Island, and undoubtedly will continue to return in the future, Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources department, told Manatee County commissioners this week in his report on the county’s activities to address the outbreak.

“It’s still there. We’re still seeing results coming ashore on our beaches,” he said, adding that the county has two beach rakes cleaning the beaches, with Mark Taylor, the full-time beach raker, putting in 21 straight days without a day off.

“As a natural occurrence, it’s always with us,” Hunsicker said. “It’s only when it blooms in a fantastic abundance that it starts to affect the respiratory abilities of fish,” affecting the smallest fish first, then the larger ones as they ingest the smaller ones. “Red tide is in the water column. I can’t paint it any worse than that.”

Hunsicker predicted that the naturally-occurring algae, which was first reported as early as the 1700s off Florida’s coast, will continue to affect county beaches.

“As sure as we will see blue skies and blue water and sandy beaches again in the years to come, we may and will be revisited by red tide,” he said.

“The red tide is absolute in its effect and very difficult to mitigate,” Hunsicker said, adding that its severity can vary from day to day and place to place.

During the current outbreak, which began on Aug. 3, the county has taken several actions, Hunsicker said:

  • Adopted stringent local stormwater controls to protect the Outstanding Florida Waters classification for Sarasota Bay
  • Completed enhanced levels of wastewater treatment in March 2017 to lower nitrogen levels in its reclaimed water distribution systems at a cost of more than $21 million
  • Implemented summer fertilizer use restrictions
  • Mobilized a 12-hour-a-day/7-day-a-week project to clean beaches and boat ramps
  • Provided dumpsters at 16 locations to provide citizens the opportunity to dispose of fish
  • Mobilized emergency services through Aptim Environmental and Infrastructure and SWS to provide three collection vessels for floating fish, a transport vessel for hauling collected fish to shore dumpster locations, and administration for in-water collection services
  • Organized three volunteer clean-up events with department staff along the Palma Sola Causeway
  • Initiated the “Nets to Neighbors Program” providing nets to residents who are able to clean their own canals.

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