2018 TBEP Program Evaluation (full document)

TBEP Work Plan Narrative Summary

For this Program Evaluation (PE) reporting period (2012-2017), the six EPA §320 Work Plans included over 20 projects in addition to supporting basic operating functions. In addition to the Work Plan projects, 34 projects were funded by external grants and the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund, and 90 Bay Mini Grants (Attachment OPI-9) were funded by Tampa Bay Estuary license plate tag funds during this period. The Narrative Summary below includes only those projects which were fully or partially funded by §320 and associated non-federal match identified in TBEP §320 Work Plans.

The Work Plan Narrative Summary is organized around the major goals adopted by the Management Conference in May 2017 and included in the approved 2017 CCMP (Attachment PPA-4). The goals are categorized to address three broad visions:

  • Clean Water and Sediments
  • Thriving Habitats and Abundant Wildlife
  • Informed, Engaged and Responsible Community

For each of these three visions, the Narratives include the NEP Program Evaluation Logic Model elements. Goals which include numeric targets are identified. Additional information can be found in the 2012 through 2017 Work Plans, and in the 2017 CCMP Revision (Attachment PPA-5).

In addition to the more traditional TBEP focus on nutrient management and establishing habitat goals, many of the technical Work Plan projects initiated in this PE reporting period were directly related to understanding the effects of projected impacts from climate change on water quality and bay habitats. Projects included vulnerability assessments, blue carbon estimates, resiliency evaluations, designing a habitat monitoring program to assess changes in bay habitats, and ocean acidification monitoring.

The Be Floridian social marketing campaign, aimed at changing how Tampa Bay homeowners maintain their landscapes, reducing fertilizer usage and encouraging compliance with local government ordinances, dominated the outreach and education efforts during this period. The multi-year effort of revising the CCMP was also a major effort. Additionally, maintaining the ongoing volunteer workdays, supporting the Tampa Bay-focused Bay Soundings quarterly journal, and the development of a summer camp curriculum were supported with Work Plan funds.

Clean Water and Sediments

Objective: Improve water quality by managing nutrient loads from urban, agricultural, and atmospheric sources and by reducing contaminants from spills and discharges.

CCMP Goals

  • Improve water quality
    • Numeric bay segment-specific annual management targets for [Chlorophyll-a] and water clarity and regulatory criteria for [Chlorophyll-a] to support seagrass growth
    • TMDL limits for Total Nitrogen capped at historic levels
  • Numeric Nutrient Criteria for [TN] and [TP] for Tampa Bay
  • Reduce pollution from stormwater runoff
  • Reduce frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms
  • Reduce the effects of air pollution on the Bay
  • Reduce pollution from wastewater discharged to the Bay
  • Reduce contaminants of concern in the Bay and develop sediment quality action plans
  • Reduce sources of bacteriological contamination
  • Improve spill prevention and response
  • Reduce the impact of dredging and improve dredged material management

Key Activities/Projects funded by TBEP EPA FY2012-2017 Work Plans during this PE period

  • Technical Support to develop and expand the nutrient management strategy
  • Coordination of the Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium
  • Old Tampa Bay Integrated Ecosystem Model development and data collection
  • HAB bloom formation research
  • Be Floridian social marketing campaign and residential water quality study
  • Sediment quality and benthic monitoring support
  • Bacteriological assessments in rivers

TBEP coordinates and facilitates the Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium (NMC). To accomplish the nitrogen management goal, 50+ local governments and industries participating in the Tampa Bay NMC voluntarily committed to cap their nitrogen loads at average annual levels recorded in 2003-2007, which also meets the 1998 federally-recognized TMDL for Total Nitrogen. These capped allocations have been adopted by the State of Florida as WQBELS, and have been incorporated into discharge permits. In 2017, the NMC finalized the 2012-2016 Reasonable Assurance (RA) Update document demonstrating compliance with water quality thresholds related to nutrient impairments in all major bay segments of Tampa Bay, which was later approved by FDEP.

The NMC participants also committed to continue to implement nutrient load reduction projects to meet their allocations as population continues to grow. An updated on-line Action Plan Database is maintained by TBEP and allows participants of the NMC to enter their projects, track cumulative nutrient reductions by bay segment or entity, and allows enhanced tracking and reporting of load reduction productions (http://apdb.tbeptech.org). Consortium participants and regulators have direct access to input and view projects contained in the database. Various reporting tools are available online, and a GIS mapping interface for projects with location information is implemented on the site.

To maintain compliance with the federally-recognized TMDL and FDEP RA determination, each year TBEP compares bay water clarity and chlorophyll-a monitoring results with established targets for those water quality indicators to determine if average annual light levels are adequate to sustain seagrass recovery. An example of these annual water quality assessment reports, for 2015, is shown in Attachment REP-2.

In response to annual water quality assessment reports showing that one segment, Old Tampa Bay, had difficulty in consistently meeting water quality targets in all years, TBEP and SWFWMD conducted a 3-year intensive ecological assessment of Old Tampa Bay and its watershed to develop specific management actions that would benefit the recovery of this bay segment. This included the development and application of an integrated watershed loading, hydrodynamic/water quality response, bay circulation, and a biological productivity models (Technical Reports #10-15 and #11-15, Attachment REP-1).

The harmful algal bloom species Pyrodinium bahamense is a naturally occurring dinoflagellate. It forms resting cysts that settle from the water column to sediments, forming a cyst bed to seed future blooms. There were no recorded occurrences of P. bahamense in the bay between 1983 and 2000. However, blooms have occurred every summer since 2008. TBEP funded two assessments to better understand the distribution of cysts and timing of P. bahamense blooms in Old Tampa Bay sediments (Technical Reports #07-12 and #07-17, Attachment REP-1).

Also, TBEP led regional fertilizer education efforts at the request of its Policy Board. The resulting 5-year Be Floridian campaign utilized social marketing principles to promote compliance with summer fertilizer bans. The campaign capitalized on the importance of water-based recreation to bay residents, urging them to “skip the fertilizer in the summer” to protect the waters that make living here fun. It also encouraged homeowners to “Garden Like a Floridian” by replacing turf grass with lower-maintenance plants (see Be Floridian website).

Tracking sediment conditions within Tampa Bay was accomplished through TBEP’s Sediment and Benthic Monitoring program, administered since 1993 by the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County. This program includes rough sorting, taxonomic review, grain size analysis, sediment chemistry and data management tasks for benthic monitoring data collected throughout Tampa Bay and its tributaries and embayments. Information from this monitoring program led to additional research focused on determining the biotic effects of sediment contaminants in McKay Bay (Technical Report #03-14).

TBEP and its partners assisted FDEP in creating comprehensive Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) for major portions of the Hillsborough, Alafia and Manatee Rivers impaired by fecal contamination. BMAPs present locally-specific strategies to reduce pollutant loadings to levels below established TMDLs, including identifying and assessing the relative contributions of bacterial loadings from sources within a watershed or watershed segment. Partners actively meet quarterly to review progress on BMAPs and discuss recent monitoring results.

The sixth Tampa Bay Scientific Information Symposium (BASIS 6) was held September 28 - 30, 2015 in St. Petersburg, Florida. More than 200 scientists, resource managers and students from the Tampa Bay area participated in the symposium, which included 75 papers and posters. Since its inception in 1982, the BASIS conference series has convened regional researchers and resource managers and provided a forum for sharing state-of-the-art research on Tampa Bay and its watershed to inform publications such as the State of the Bay report and the CCMP. The theme of the BASIS 6, Navigating Changing Tides, featured work that explores the 21st century dimensions of environmental challenges and the innovative and practical strategies devised to address them. Presentations were organized around the following session topics and are available on-line: Coastal Connections; Practical Applications of Environmental Management & Policy; Emerging Issues, Technology & Methods; and Climate Change. BASIS 6 Proceedings were completed in 2016 and are available online.

Partnerships

  • Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium partners
    • 50+ government and industry partners
  • Old Tampa Bay Integrated Ecosystem Model partners
    • Southwest Florida Water Management District
    • OTB Integrated Model Working Group (TAC representatives from OTB watershed)
    • 2 Subject Matter Experts (Drs. James Martin & Michael Kemp)
    • EPA Science and Ecosystem Support Division, Ecological Assessment Branch
  • Be Floridian partners
    • National marketing & branding team (Salter Mitchell)
    • Pinellas and Manatee counties
    • Cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa
  • Sediment quality and benthic monitoring partners
    • Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County
    • Pinellas and Manatee counties
  • Bacteriological assessment in rivers partners
    • Florida Department of Environmental Protection
    • Florida Department of Health
    • City and county governments in affected watersheds
    • Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County
  • HAB bloom formation research partners
    • Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County
    • FWCC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

Outputs (deliverables) Technical reports available in Attachment REP-1

Short-term and Intermediate term Outcomes (knowledge and behavior)

Increased cooperation between diverse public and private entities to attain nitrogen load reduction goals and support Clean Water Act goals through participation in Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium continue. Increased cooperation and understanding between TBEP staff, local, state and federal entities through collaboration on developing Numeric Nutrient Criteria and Basin Management Action Plans were also positive outcomes.

Nutrient load allocations (capped at 2003-2007 annual averages and within the federally-recognized TMDL limits) have been adopted by the State of Florida as WQBELS and continue to be incorporated into more than 60 permitted discharge permits as these permits are renewed.

TBEP proposed defensible and protective Numeric Nutrient Criteria recommendations for Tampa Bay, which are consistent with the successful Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Strategy being implemented by the NMC. TBEP’s recommendations were adopted by the State of Florida and US EPA as appropriate Numeric Nutrient Criteria, and became law in December 2012. In 2017, the State of Florida removed all Tampa Bay segments from impairment lists for total nitrogen following submittal of the 2017 Reasonable Assurance Update document (Attachment REP-4) that demonstrated the Bay met the adopted Numeric Nutrient Criteria and has made steady progress in seagrass recovery.

Tracking of nutrient reduction projects through the Action Plan Database was enhanced.

Research results have led to increased understanding of the factors affecting water quality and seagrass recovery in Old Tampa Bay; HAB cyst bed locations and the timing of bloom formation in Old Tampa Bay; baywide sediment quality ‘hot spots’ status and trends; and sources of bacteriological contamination in rivers.

Independent and programmatic evaluations show that Be Floridian – with its emphasis on behavior change rather than simply increased awareness – has helped to change fertilizer practices and promote increased use of native and Florida-friendly plants in residential landscapes. A final web-based evaluation of the campaign, conducted in Fall 2015, showed that residents understand one of the key messages of Be Floridian – that fertilizer should not be applied in summer months. Fewer than 5% of respondents in a 2015 evaluation survey identified summer months as the best time to fertilize lawns, and 63% said they were less likely to use fertilizer in summer because of what they had learned (up from 47% in a 2012 survey). External social science surveys conducted as part of an overall evaluation of fertilizer practices and ordinance awareness also showed widespread awareness that fertilizer should not be applied before a heavy rain. A majority of survey respondents also reported engaging in other recommended behaviors, such as planting native or Florida-friendly plants, installing a rain barrel, or replacing lawn areas with low-maintenance landscaping.

Over the 2012-2016 RA implementation period, 51 nutrient reduction projects were implemented in the Tampa Bay watershed by Consortium participants. Many of these projects also helped to reduce bacteriological loadings to Tampa Bay’s rivers.

The TBEP and its contractor summarized results from the Bay Region Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (BRACE) in both technical and public documents. The BRACE project occurred between 2002 and 2007 and was intended to improve estimates of atmospheric nitrogen deposition to Tampa Bay; determine the sources of atmospheric deposition in the local Tampa Bay area and beyond; and assess the impact of air quality regulations on nitrogen deposition to Tampa Bay. Results suggest that atmospheric deposition contributed 57% of all nitrogen loading to Tampa Bay in 2002 – a larger source than previously estimated. A technical publication was published by the journal Atmospheric Environment in 2013. A public summary document was completed in August 2012 and distributed through hard copies as well as on the TBEP’s Tech Website (Technical Report #02-13, Attachment REP-1).  

Changes in Pressures/Stressors

Cumulatively, for the 51 projects completed by the Nitrogen Management Consortium between 2012 and 2016 that have load reduction estimates associated with them, a TN load reduction of 147.3 tons/year was estimated.

TBEP has developed loading reports for Tampa Bay since 1985. The most recent estimates of TN loading to Tampa Bay are for the 2012-2016 time period. Overall, total loadings to the bay have declined from previous annual average estimates. To date, hydrologically-normalized total loads to Tampa Bay are at the lowest levels since they have been estimated (1985) despite an ever increasing population in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area (Figure Summary-1; Tampa Bay 2017 Reasonable Assurance document, Attachment REP-4).

Fig Sum 1 Hyd Loadings

Chlorophyll-a adopted regulatory thresholds were met in all four major bay segments between 2012 and 2016, the exception being one year in Old Tampa Bay (Figure Summary-2). Critical to the support for annual compliance reporting requirements for the Tampa Bay TMDL and Reasonable Assurance, TBEP county partners have conducted extensive water quality monitoring programs in the Bay and watershed for many decades. Monthly water quality monitoring was initiated in 1974 by the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County; and in the early 1990s by Pinellas County and Manatee County and are continuing through the present (Attachment MON-4). These programs have provided crucial data to support development and validation of the stressor-response models (TN load - [Chl-a]) used in determining TN loading goals to support recovery of seagrass in Tampa Bay and are critical to the annual evaluation of water quality attainment.

Fig Sum 2 Reg Matrix

Seagrass acreage in Tampa Bay continues to increase. Between 2012 and 2016, seagrass coverage increased by 7,013 acres. As of 2016, Tampa Bay seagrass acreage (41,655 acres) now exceeds both the recovery goal (38,000 acres) and the historic, 1950 benchmark period estimate (40,420 acres) (Figure Summary-3).

Fig Sum 3 Seagrass Acreage

Benthic condition (sediment chemistry and benthos) remained primarily in the ‘Fair’ category, with some areas in the upper bay segments and within estuarine portions of major rivers receiving a ‘poor’ rating. Areas in the southern portions of the bay, closest to the Gulf, generally received higher scores (Technical Report #04-15 in Attachment REP-1).

Since BMAP implementation in 2009, fecal coliform levels (an indicator of fecal contamination) have generally improved in all the Hillsborough River sub-basins (Technical Report #05-13, Attachment REP-1). However, there is a need to evaluate the relative importance of pet and human-based waterborne fecal contamination as part of additional development of BMAPs and updates to existing BMAPs to address waters designated as impaired for fecal coliform (CCMP Action PH-4, Attachment PPA-5).

Continuing research on HAB formation and biological mechanisms to control blooms is currently underway. Initial results are expected by 2019.

Long-term Outcomes

The public and private sector participants in the Tampa Bay NMC continue to look towards the future and have plans to implement or continue to implement multiple projects post-2016. Table 8 in Attachment REP-4 lists projects that are being continued by Consortium participants and include educational components. Table 9 lists projects that are planned to be initiated/completed in specific years or are in progress of being completed during the 2017-2021 RA Implementation period. Combining project information from both tables where load reductions can be estimated, ~ 482.8 tons/year of TN is estimated to be precluded from entering the bay in the future.

Similarly, local partners have committed to implementing bacteriological contamination reduction projects through the State’s Basin Management Action Plan process.

The 2017 CCMP Update identified a number of information and research gaps and steps to address those gaps, including the need for additional information on emerging contaminants of concern, microplastics, potential effects of contaminated sediments on organisms and human health in ‘hot spots’, and the potential effects of climate change on TBEP long-term goals and strategies (Attachment PPA-5).

 

Thriving Habitats and Abundant Wildlife

Objective: Increase the number and diversity of healthy bay habitats through restoration and protection to support thriving fisheries and wildlife resilient to a changing climate.

CCMP Goals

  • Increase and preserve the number and diversity of healthy bay habitats
  • Numeric extent targets for seagrass, salt marsh, mangroves, salt barrens, freshwater wetlands, and low-salinity habitats based on a paradigm of restoring the historic (1950 era) balance of acres of each habitat type.
  • Establish and preserve adequate freshwater flows to the bay and its tributaries
  • Reduce the occurrence of invasive species in the bay
  • Protect and enhance fisheries and wildlife
  • Improve the resiliency of bay habitats to climate change

Key Activities/Projects

  • Benthic and Seagrass monitoring support
  • Climate Ready Estuaries – Case Studies from the Gulf of Mexico
  • Critical Coastal Habitat Assessment
  • Tidal Tributaries Assessment
  • Dredged Hole Assessment
  • CCMP Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment
  • Ocean Acidification monitoring
  • Habitat Master Plan Update
  • Climate Ready Estuaries – Blue Carbon Assessment

Partnerships

  • Benthic and Seagrass monitoring support
    • Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County
    • Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties
    • City of Tampa
    • Southwest Florida Water Management District
    • Florida Department of Environmental Protection
    • FWCC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
    • Tampa Bay Watch
    • Private consultants (AMEC-FW, Inc.; Golder Associates, Inc.; Scheda Ecological
      Associates, Inc., and Stantec, Inc.)
  • Climate Ready Estuaries – Case Studies from the Gulf of Mexico
    • EPA Climate Ready Estuaries Program
    • Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program
    • Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program
    • Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program
    • Galveston Bay Estuary Program
    • Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
    • Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
    • Tampa Bay Estuary Program
    • Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve
    • Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
    • Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
    • Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve
    • Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Critical Coastal Habitat Assessment
    • TAC members of the Tampa Bay Habitat Restoration and Protection Partnership
    • FWCC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
    • Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties
  • Tidal Tributaries Assessment
    • Southwest Florida Water Management District
    • Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
    • Charlotte Harbor Estuary Program
    • Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte counties
    • University of South Florida
    • US Fish and Wildlife Service
    • NOAA/Sea Grant
    • EPA Region 4 Wetlands Development Grant
    • Mote Marine Laboratory
  • Dredged Hole Assessment
    • US Army Corps of Engineers
    • FWCC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
    • EPA R4 Wetlands Development Grant
  • CCMP Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment
    • EPA Coastal Management Branch
    • Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council
    • Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel
  • Ocean Acidification monitoring
    • United States Geologic Survey
    • FWCC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
    • USF College of Marine Sciences
    • Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County
  • Habitat Master Plan Update
    • Southwest Florida Water Management District
  • Climate Ready Estuaries Blue Carbon Assessment
    • EPA Climate Ready Estuaries
    • Restore America’s Estuaries
    • FWCC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
    • USGS Woods Hole Coastal & Marine Science Center
  • Tampa Bay Ecosystem Services Assessment
    • EPA ORD Gulf Breeze Lab
    • Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council

Outputs (deliverables). All available in Attachment REP-1

  • Benthic and Seagrass monitoring support; see Technical Reports #04-15; 09-17; 08-16
  • Climate Ready Estuaries – Case Studies from the Gulf of Mexico; see technical report #01-14
  • Critical Coastal Habitat Assessment; see Technical Reports #05-17; 06-17; 08-17; 07-14; 03-12
  • Tidal Tributaries Assessment; see Technical Reports #02-16 (including appendices and databases); 05-16; 05-16a; 03-15; 09-12
  • Dredged Hole Assessment; ongoing
  • CCMP Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment; see Technical Report #10b-17
  • Ocean Acidification monitoring; ongoing
  • Habitat Master Plan Update; see Technical Reports #05-14; 06-13; 10-12
  • Climate Ready Estuaries Blue Carbon assessment; see technical reports #07-16; 07a-16

Short-term and Intermediate-term Outcomes (knowledge and behavior)

CCMP Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment: TBEP staff engaged members of the TBEP Technical Advisory Committee, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s Agency on Bay Management and the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, an ad hoc network of scientists convened by Florida Sea Grant, to assess the extent to which the goals of the CCMP are vulnerable to a variety of climate stressors. Feedback was obtained during public meetings (July 2016; September 2016; January 2017) and facilitated discussions, via email, and using Poll Everywhere live-polling technology. The assessment follows the process (steps 1-5) detailed in the EPA Workbook, “Being Prepared for Climate Change” and establishes a framework for future adaptation or mitigation activities that can be incorporated into the CCMP. Stakeholders identified nearly fifty potential climate-related risks challenging successful implementation of CCMP goals. The results of the Vulnerability Assessment suggest that increased temperatures (air and water), warmer winters, and sea level rise are climate stressors of particular importance to the Tampa Bay watershed and may have adverse impacts upon key TBEP goals pertaining to water and sediment quality, bay habitats, and fish and wildlife – if appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies are not implemented.

The Critical Coastal Habitat Assessment, identified as a need in the 2010 Habitat Master Plan Update, attempts to “develop a long-term monitoring program to assess the status, trends and ecological function of the mosaic of critical coastal habitats to detect changes due to natural and indirect anthropogenic impacts including sea level rise and climate change, and improve future management of habitats.” This project is part of a larger effort to manage, restore and protect the mosaic of coastal habitats critical to the ecological function of the Tampa Bay estuary. A long-term fixed transect program was developed by a TBEP consultant, Atkins North America, with input from the Tampa Bay Habitat Restoration Partnership. The monitoring characterized the baseline (2015-2016) status of the mosaic of critical coastal habitats in relatively undisturbed areas of Tampa Bay. The five original monitoring locations (Upper Tampa Bay Park, TECO/Big Bend, Manatee River and Little Manatee River, and the Alafia River) were selected that have a full complement of emergent tidal wetland communities including mangrove, salt marsh, salt barrens and coastal uplands. Additional EPA Wetland Development Grant funding expanded the program to four additional sites (Ft. DeSoto, Weedon Island, Harbor Palms Park, and Cockroach Bay) and developed a multimedia training manual through the Coastal Wetland Assessment project; this component was completed by FWCC-FWRI. The additional sites were surveyed in fall 2016, and the training manual and final report were completed in late 2017. It is anticipated that these sites will be re-examined every 3-5 years, based on recommendations by the Tampa Bay Habitat Restoration Partnership.

The TBEP has set restoration and protection targets for seagrass, mangroves, salt marsh, freshwater wetlands and salt barrens. Research is underway to better understand tidal creeks and the historic and current areal extents of tidal flats, oyster reefs and hard bottom habitats. New monitoring and mapping approaches and techniques to capture large- and small- scale changes in coastal marshes and mangrove forests are being developed to better understand and potentially mitigate for climate change. Results from these ongoing projects will help managers set restoration and protection targets for tidal flats, oyster reef, hard bottom habitats and tidal tributaries, and better evaluate and track progress toward achieving targets for mangroves and coastal marshes.

From 1950–2007, the Tampa Bay Area suffered a net loss of more than one-third of its freshwater wetlands, amounting to more than 100,000 acres. Non-forested wetlands were disproportionately lost. These findings led TBEP partners to set a specific restoration and protection target of 18,703 acres of freshwater wetlands, including 17,088 acres of non-forested and 1,615 acres of forested wetlands. The Freshwater Wetland Habitat Master Plan (Technical Report #05-14 in Attachment REP-1) determined that these specific targets were achievable and best accomplished through a combination of publicly financed restoration and privately funded compensatory mitigation. Since 1991, the SWIM Program has routinely incorporated both estuarine and freshwater wetlands into their habitat mosaic designs as components of stormwater treatment — while simultaneously establishing freshwater wetlands, oligohaline habitats, and salinity gradients important for fisheries production. Regulatory permitting agencies have committed to utilizing the Freshwater Wetland Master Plan to identify and require mitigation of historic wetland conditions. There is a need to provide education and guidance to environmental professionals on how to best utilize the Plan’s recommendations and tools.

Carbon sequestration has become a topic of interest as one method to mitigate potential negative consequences resulting from climate change. The TBEP and multiple partners and contractors (including TBERF, Restore America’s Estuaries, Environmental Science Associates, FWCC-FWRI, and USGS) recently concluded a study of potential changes in stored carbon in coastal Tampa Bay systems under different 100-year sea level rise scenarios. Changes in CO2 and methane (CH4) fluxes were estimated over time as habitats were projected to evolve in response to sea-level rise. The framework used locally and/or regionally appropriate values or estimates of aboveground biomass (“biomass”), soil carbon sequestration rates, and methane emission rates for each habitat type to estimate greenhouse gas fluxes from land use changes. The values for biomass, soil carbon sequestration, and methane emissions were derived from both literature values and field data collected in Tampa Bay. In addition, multiple coastal parcels (public and private) were identified as potential migration routes for bay habitats (marshes, salt barrens, mangroves, etc.) based on current condition and proximity to existing habitats. Project results highlighted that if Tampa Bay critical coastal habitats are allowed to persist, migrate, and/or transition through 2100, then combined coastal land uses are likely to remove 74 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The TBEP’s Manatee Awareness Coalition (MAC) continued to provide input to area governments on issues concerning manatee and seagrass protection. In 2016-2017 MAC members provided comments to the USFWS about the down-listing of the Florida manatee from endangered to threatened, provided feedback on TBEP’s 2017 CCMP Update, and helped to organize and conduct a training workshop on Tampa Bay manatee protection zones for on-water law enforcement officers.

The TBEP, in partnership with the SWFWMD, and its contractor GPI Southeast, Inc., completed a Tampa Bay Salinity Barrier Inventory and Restoration Feasibility study in 2012 (Technical Report #09-12). The study identified a total of 344 potential barriers, crossings and water control structures on tidal tributaries and rivers throughout Tampa Bay. Of those structures identified in the tidal portions of the tributaries, 31 were evaluated for future restoration potential. A hydrologic restoration project on MacDill Air Force Base was completed in July 2015 utilizing MS-AL Sea Grant funds. Additionally, in 2014, salinity barriers on the Channels A & G and Rocky Creek system were opened to restore tidal connectivity. The salinity barriers remain open today and are being used as a hydrologic restoration demonstration project by the SWFWMD. Additional hydrologic restoration opportunities may be pursued in 2016 based on local watershed feasibility studies.

The longshore bar project team completed the final year of post-construction monitoring in 2015 documenting the presence and abundance of seagrass, fisheries utilization and structural integrity of the 800-foot-long constructed bar. The project was implemented to test whether re-construction of a historic longshore bar may improve conditions for seagrass colonization behind the bars due to the wave attenuation effects. Prior to and following construction, water quality conditions baywide improved, leading to record acreages of seagrass recovery, therefore, the project results are inconclusive. However, the bar structures do appear to provide adequate protection for nearshore seagrass, as well as habitat for numerous fish and shellfish species.

The TBEP partnered with the US EPA on a place-based pilot study for a national Ecosystem Services evaluation, to assist in defining non-market values for the natural resources of Tampa Bay. Focus areas included carbon sequestration and nitrogen removal capacity of freshwater and estuarine natural areas and urban forests, and fisheries value of wetlands.

Changes in Pressures/Stressors

As noted in the Water Quality section, seagrass extent continued to expand over this time period concomitant with continued reduction in hydrologically-adjusted TN loads from external sources.

The Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) is a lead architect of large-scale habitat restoration initiatives in Tampa Bay. Since 1989, SWIM has implemented 96 coastal restoration projects with cooperators, restoring 4,617 acres (7.2 square miles) of coastal habitats. This work has created substantial oligohaline and salt barren habitats, priorities identified by TBEP’s Habitat Master Plan and Restoring the Balance guidance.

While varying in extent in different parts of Florida, submerged or partially submerged and lesser-known habitats such as hard and live bottom habitats, oysters, and tidal flats occur in Tampa Bay at relatively lower coverage (relative to seagrasses, marshes, and mangroves). However, their importance in Tampa Bay’s estuarine habitat mosaic has been recognized in previous TBEP guiding documents (e.g., 2006 and 2017 CCMP Updates, Original 1996 and 2009 HMPU). A TAC subcommittee, initiated by SWFWMD, was formed to develop a research and management proposal to develop targets for hard bottom and associated habitat types. The SWFWMD (supported by TBEP TBERF grant) received funding to implement an initial phase of this project. Oyster data from 2014 was compared against 1970s aerial photography in SE Tampa Bay and Old Tampa Bay. The coverage of oyster beds in OTB decreased from 84 acres to 59 acres (a 30% decrease), and in SE Tampa Bay oyster reefs decreased from 34 acres to 14 acres (a 59% decrease). For tidal flats analysis, similar to the oyster project, SWFWMD compared 1970s and 2014 aerial photos from two locations, Southeast Tampa Bay and Old Tampa Bay. Tidal flats in OTB changed from 7,702 to 4,650 acres (a 40% decrease), much of which can be accounted for by seagrass gains. The Southeast Tampa Bay area increased from 1,273 to 1,529 acres (a 20% increase). Finally, a SWFWMD contractor used video and sonar technologies to observe and map hard bottom habitats in southeast Tampa Bay. Restoration goals and management recommendations included in the final report consisted of protection efforts for all known occurrences of these relatively rare habitats, identification of additional habitats, and continued assessment of ecosystem services for oyster reefs to better understand potential restoration targets.

The Feather Sound Tidal Wetland Restoration was completed in 2016. The project, which incorporated hydrologic modifications, exotic vegetation removal, and native wetland planting, was designed to improve habitat value and water quality along the fringing mangrove system of western Old Tampa Bay. This area has experienced slower seagrass recovery than other areas of Tampa Bay, potentially due to the extensive watershed development and associated runoff. Located along a golf course community, the project has included partnerships with the local neighborhood residents and the privately-owned golf course through access, maintenance agreements and participation in volunteer planting events. Grading, hydro-blasting of side-cast spoil, removal of exotic vegetation, and installation of native vegetation was accomplished, resulting in restoration and enhancement of 29.8 acres of coastal habitat in Old Tampa Bay. Water quality and fisheries monitoring were conducted by partners in parallel with the habitat restoration project. Volunteers contributed 726.5 hours of work, including plant harvesting at donor sites and installation at Feather Sound.

Long-term Outcomes

The 2017 CCMP Update, adopted by the TBEP Management Conference in spring 2017, includes specific actions, identifies responsible parties, and establishes timelines addressing habitat protection and restoration and actions to protect and enhance bay wildlife (Attachment PPA-5). Commitments by TBEP and our partners, as identified in the 2017 CCMP Update, will help support the goal of attaining and maintaining thriving habitats and abundant wildlife.

 

Informed, Engaged and Responsible Community

Objective: Inform and engage our partners and the public to appreciate, protect, and sustain Tampa Bay through responsible use, participation in restoration, and adoption of best practices.

CCMP Goals

  • Foster responsible public use of the bay

  • Increase public education and involvement

  • Incorporate 2017 CCMP Update Goals and actions into local government plans

Key Activities/Projects

  • Community Information and Publications
  • Give-a-Day Volunteer Workdays
  • Bay Soundings Environmental Journal
  • Tampa Bay Estuary Atlas
  • Be Floridian Social Marketing Campaign
  • BASIS 6 Scientific Symposium
  • Summer Camp Curriculum
  • CCMP Design and Support
  • Trash-Free Waters Program Support
  • Economic Valuation of Tampa Bay
  • King Tide Photo Exhibit
  • Southwest Florida Regional Ecosystem Restoration Plan
  • Invasive Species Awareness

Partnerships

  • Outreach and education partners include:
  • Local Governments
  • Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council
  • University of South Florida
  • EPA Trash-Free Waters program
  • EPA Climate Ready Estuaries
  • Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
  • Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program
  • Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties
  • Southwest Florida Water Management District
  • Keep Tampa Bay & Pinellas County Beautiful
  • And especially: The community volunteers who are always ready to pitch in to help!

Outputs (deliverables)

Working with a contractor, TBEP developed a Tampa Bay-focused summer camp module targeting children in grades K-3 attending traditional summer camps offered by our local government Parks & Recreation Departments (http://www.tbep.org/pdfs/TBEP-Summer-Camp-Module-2015.pdf). The module contained 5-7 hours of programming that recreation departments can provide throughout the course of a week, or as one entire day of learning activities. The programming included background resources for instructors, and hands-on, age-appropriate group activities that teach camp participants about key aspects of Tampa Bay (fish, wildlife, habitats), and simple ways they can keep the bay healthy through positive behaviors such as recycling/reusing waste, picking up after their pets, and respecting wildlife. The activities expanded TBEP educational programming into non-traditional venues, reaching kids in urban areas who often have little to no access to the natural environment. Two training workshops were held and well attended by city and county recreation department staffs.

The King Tide Photo Exhibit, Chasing the Waves, was featured at seven (7) city recreation and science centers and displayed at the county courthouse. The exhibit was also displayed at the Bay Area Scientific Information Symposium (BASIS 6). The exhibit showcases photos taken both locally and internationally that illustrate the potential impacts of rising seas on our shores, infrastructure and communities (http://www.tbep.org/tampa_bay:_a_climate-ready_estuary-king_tide_traveling_photo_exhibit.html).

The TBEP continued to educate and engage citizens in bay restoration and protection, through continued programming and publications addressing priority issues such as pet waste disposal, invasive species management, and bay-friendly boating. The TBEP also continued to distribute educational materials like the Invasive Plant Field Guide and the “Wicked Weeds” Invasive Plant Eradication DVD, and to fund community removal of invasive plants through Bay Mini-Grants.

The TBEP distributed more than 2,000 “Getting the Scoop on Poop” pet waste door hangers to apartments, condos and neighborhoods, and made a wide variety of pet waste educational materials (including posters and the invasive plant field guide) available as downloadable files on its website, along with a web-based “Pooches for the Plant” pledge.

Ethical boating and angling continued to be an important component of TBEP’s outreach program, through the digital Tampa Bay Boater’s Guide and Tampa Bay Ethical Angler Wallet Cards, as well as distribution of printed copies of boating guides and wallet cards to bait and tackle shops, marinas, and through the Coast Guard Auxiliary and other groups.

In March 2013, the combined Policy Boards of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, and Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program worked collaboratively with more than 50 local governments and agencies to develop a Regional Ecosystem Restoration Plan for more than half of Florida’s Gulf Coast. The Regional Plan was developed for the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and to assist the State in funding decisions for the Gulf-wide RESTORE Act. In 2013-2014, TBEP continued to provide input and information to the State of Florida, the Federal RESTORE Council, and federal agencies (USFWS, USDA, and EPA) on the Regional RESTORE Ecosystem Restoration Plan.

The TBEP’s volunteer workday program, Give a Day for the Bay, continues to focus its efforts largely on removal of invasive plants such as Brazilian pepper and air potato from public parks and preserves. Staff participated in forming the Suncoast Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA), a regional collaboration of scientists, land managers, educators and citizens working together to address issues related to invasive plants and animals. Staff coordinated publicity for CISMA activities such as Exotic Pet Amnesty Day and Python Patrol training. TBEP also continued to distribute education materials like the Invasive Plant Field Guide and the “Wicked Weeds” Invasive Plant Eradication DVD.

Short-term and Intermediate-term Outcomes (knowledge and behavior)

TBEP continued to maintain the TBEP and Be Floridian Facebook pages; a You Tube channel; an @weLoveTampaBay instagram site; and a Pinterest page featuring shareable infographics, educational materials and photo galleries highlighting TBEP activities and wildlife and habitats of the bay. These tools allow us to customize information, share our programs and materials, and interact with specific target audiences in an informal, fun atmosphere. TBEP’s list serve, maintained through Constant Contact, grew to more than 4,500 subscribers by 2017. The listserve allows us to post not only TBEP events and news, but also news and events of key partners through monthly e-blasts. Subscribers can sign up to receive all e-mail blasts or only those related to a special interest, such as Volunteer Opportunities or Conferences and Workshops.

The popular “Give a Day for the Bay” volunteer program continued throughout this PE Reporting period, with 6 half-day workdays held at parks and preserves around the watershed each year. More than 200 community volunteers per year participated in the half-day workdays, performing a variety of bay improvement tasks, from removing invasive plants (Brazilian pepper, air potato, and rosary pea) and creating oyster shell reefs to planting trees, upland and shoreline restoration plants (including sea oats, railroad vine, beach sunflower, slash pines and palmettos).

A major revision of Charting the Course: The Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Tampa Bay was completed in FY 2016/2017. TBEP’s Public Outreach Coordinator coordinated various aspects of the 2017 CCMP Update, including stakeholder and committee reviews; production and editing; graphics and art design, and web publication. The final 2017 CCMP Update, including 38 specific actions for bay improvement, as well as other required elements such as Research & Monitoring Priorities and a Financial Strategy, was approved by TBEP’s Management and Policy Boards in February 2017. The final document is posted as a downloadable e-book on TBEP’s website (Attachment PPA-5). A condensed, graphics-focused Public Summary was also completed in summer 2017 (Attachment PPA-4).

The TBEP launched #LoveTampaBay, a website showcasing visually compelling digital “postcards” of special people and places in Tampa Bay, in October 2016 (http://lovetampabay.org/). Postcards are divided into five categories – HOME, SCIENCE, JOBS, ART and COMMUNITY – with each postcard sharable through “quick links” across four social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Email and Pinterest. An @weLoveTampaBay Instagram account also supports the campaign, and was a popular feature. Users are encouraged to “Share the Love” via the social media links, and to upload and share their own #LTB postcards on the website and across their social media networks. Educational messages are delivered via a short “Did You Know?” fast fact with each postcard, and also through a “Do More” section featuring highly visual infographic tips for Bay-Friendly Living.

In spring 2017, maintenance and hosting of the website supporting the Be Floridian fertilizer education campaign was assumed by Pinellas County. TBEP continued to maintain the Facebook page, with 18,800 “likes” as of January 2017, through the transition period. The website and Facebook page support local fertilizer ordinances and tips for “gardening like a Floridian.” The Facebook page boasts a weekly reach of 5,000-50,000 people, with a high rate of engagement as measured by “likes,” shares and comments on posts. The Facebook page also houses permanent features such as a Florida Yard gallery and profiles of the popular artist-painted plastic pink flamingos that comprised the “Art of Being Floridian” exhibit.

The Be Floridian campaign was a finalist for the Millbank Social Marketing Award for Innovation in the Environmental Field, a new award presented at the USF International Social Marketing Conference. Be Floridian was expanded to the Indian River Lagoon in 2016; several cities and counties throughout Florida and the nation continue to request information about the initiative and model educational materials about Be Floridian products.

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, in partnership with TBEP, completed an economic evaluation of Tampa Bay to the region in 2014. The TBRPC evaluated both the economic value of the presence of the Bay and the added value of a clean Tampa Bay to assess the economic impacts of the Bay’s restoration. Results show that one in every five jobs in the Tampa Bay watershed depends on a healthy Tampa Bay. A clean bay also contributes an impressive 13%, or $22 billion, of the total economic activity over the larger, 6-county Tampa Bay region (Technical Report #4-14; Attachment REP-1).

In 2014, a climate change section was added to the TBEP website (http://www.tbep.org/tampa_bay:_a_climate-ready_estuary.html) to highlight research and outreach initiatives related to our participation in EPA’s Climate-Ready Estuaries program. Among those projects are the Sea Level Rise Visualization Tool and the King Tide Photo Exhibit. The Photo Exhibit traveled to museums and education centers from summer 2013 to summer 2014, showcasing photos taken both locally and internationally that illustrate the potential impacts of rising seas on our shores, infrastructure and communities.

Changes in Pressures/Stressors

Evaluations of Be Floridian showed that the campaign helped to boost knowledge of and compliance with local fertilizer ordinances. Fewer than 5% of respondents in a 2015 evaluation survey identified summer months as the best time to fertilize lawns, and 63% said they were less likely to use fertilizer in summer because of what they had learned (up from 47% in a 2012 survey). External social science surveys conducted as part of an overall evaluation of fertilizer practices and ordinance awareness also showed widespread awareness that fertilizer should not be applied before a heavy rain.

Long-term Outcomes

An Informed, Engaged and Responsible Community is crucial in making progress toward all CCMP Goals – especially the water quality goals. Continuing to support activities aimed toward informing and engaging the Tampa Bay community will be primary objectives of future Work Plans.

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