Tuesday evening the Greater Pine Island Civic Association, in its continuing series about the condition of local waters, hosted a meeting for Dr. Lisa Beever, director of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.
CHNEP is a partnership working to protect the natural environment from Venice to Bonita Springs and Winter Haven. The CHNEP is a committee-driven organization to implement a 20-year plan, known as the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, to protect estuaries and their watersheds. The CHNEP area of focus includes Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee, Manatee, Polk and Sarasota counties.
According to the CHNEP website, "The partners' 20-year plan, known as the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), includes diverse resource management concerns such as fish and wildlife habitat loss, water quality degradation and water flow. The State of Florida and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the CCMP in 2001. That approval marked the beginning of action to protect and restore these estuaries and their watersheds."?GPICA vice president Kathy Malone introduced Beever.
Left to right: Dr. Lisa Beever, Roger Wood and Kathy Malone.
"There are 28 national estuary programs in the nation and four in Florida," Beever said. "Our study area includes eight basins. The Pine Island Basin is just about center in our study area."
Beever displayed a slide presentation of the estuary beginning with a graphic showing the monthly salinity for the estuaries indicating that the salinity levels are high in the winter and low in the summer.
"The estuaries require this swing in salinity that occur during the change of seasons," Beever said.
CHNEP is mandated to conduct a management conference. There are four committees: a Citizen Advisory Committee, composed of citizens; a Technical Advisory Committee, composed of scientists, engineers and planners; a Management Committee of resource managers; and a Policy Committee, made up of elected officials and top agency heads.
"By the time a recommendation gets through the management conference it's pretty well thought out by citizens, scientists and resource managers," Beever said. "This process enables us to come up with local solutions to local problems.
"Each NEP is required to adopt a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan," Beever said. "We adopted our first in 2000 and we updated in 2008. The CCMP guides everything that we do. There are four priority problems within our CCMP: hydrologic alterations, water quality degradation; fish and wildlife habitat loss; and stewardship gaps. These four problems form the core of what we do.
"When we adopted our CCMP we included 15 quantifiable objectives and 60 priority actions," she continued. "One of those priority actions is to restore submerged and inter-tidal habitats including seagrass. From those actions we proposed seagrass targets such as Matlacha Pass which is an area that needs restoration. Pine Island Sound has one of the best seagrass areas in our study area.
"With that we identified water quality criteria including chlorophyll, nitrogen, phosphorous and those criteria were adopted by the state of Florida and are now law.
"One of the measures of whether the criteria are working or not is are we seeing seagrass recovery where we expect to see it," Beever said.
Showing several slides from the Charlotte Harbor Water Atlas of aerial views of Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass in 1999, 2004, 2006 and 2008, Beever suggested that the seagrasses "in general are going up." But in 2010 the mapping was discontinued and "today we are basically blind as to what's happening in Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound," Beever said.
The Charlotte Harbor Water Atlas is a website designed to provide citizens, scientists, professionals and planners with comprehensive and current water quality, hydrologic and ecological data, as well as information about recreational opportunities. The Atlas is available at www.chnep.wateratlas.usf.edu
Kathy Malone asked, "Do you interview any of the commercial fisherman? What we hear from the commercial fishermen who are out there all day and have been fishing these waters for generations is that things are degrading."
"We haven't talked to any of the fishermen but would welcome fishermen on our Citizens Committee," Beever said. "What we do know is that the primary reason for damage to seagrass is prop scarring. New boaters that think the water is deeper than it is and damage the seagrass. We have prepared some videos for boaters that shows what prop scarring does to the seagrasses."
Another in attendance asked what the group is doing to help seagrasses recover.
"We work with partners and help by funding various projects and other 20/20 land acquisitions. We also advocate for 20/20," Beever said.
At the end of the presentation, Phil Buchanan detailed the status of the Ceitus Barrier lawsuit filed Dec. 27, 2013.
"Expect nothing to happen for about another month and then they will have to file their response," Buchanan said. "In the meantime, fund-raising is going very well. Yesterday I received a check from an anonymous donor and last month we raised $1,244 including a matching $500 donation from Ray Judah. These lawsuits take a tremendous amount of time."