Water district announces success of aquifer recovery efforts

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, in partnership with Tampa Bay Water, recently announced the successful environmental recovery efforts of the Northern Tampa Bay Water Use Caution Area.

The success of the Northern Tampa Bay recovery efforts was detailed at the Governing Board’s February meeting. The Board has concurred that a recovery strategy is no longer required for the area because aquifer levels have rebounded and the health of the lakes and wetlands in the region have recovered or significantly improved.

The District has invested more than $300 million and Tampa Bay Water has invested nearly $2 billion toward this 20-year recovery effort, which has reduced groundwater withdrawals by about 50% and has developed innovative solutions to replace these reductions with alternative water sources, including surface water and desalinated sea water.

Most notably, the ecological health of more than 1,300 lakes, wetlands, and other surface waterbodies in the area have recovered or significantly improved and most aquifer water levels are at their highest in four to six decades.

“By all measure, this is such an incredible model of what we can do as a community to reinforce and maintain a healthy environment,” said Governing Board Secretary Rebecca Smith who represents Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. “I just think it’s amazing. A proud moment for our region, for sure.”

Before the Northern Tampa Bay Water Use Caution Area was established in 1989, large amounts of water were permitted and pumped from the region’s wellfields, resulting in lakes and wetlands in the area losing water and, in some cases, drying up completely, which caused significant harm to the natural ecosystem.

As a result, Tampa Bay Water was created in 1998 ending the region’s “Water Wars.” The District and Tampa Bay Water worked in partnership to develop a 20-year recovery plan, which included reducing the amount of groundwater withdrawals in the area and developing alternative water sources for the residents of Tampa Bay.

Part of the joint recovery approach included Tampa Bay Water building one of the largest seawater desalination plants in North America located in Apollo Beach, pulling water from various river sources, constructing the 15-billion-gallon C.W. “Bill” Young Regional Reservoir in southern Hillsborough County, installing miles of pipelines to connect systems and completing a surface water treatment plant.

These alternative water resources have been critical in compensating for the reduction in groundwater withdrawals and the rise in demand for water due to population growth in the area. These alternative sources also provide resiliency, allowing Tampa Bay Water flexibility in its water sources.

The District plans to continue monitoring the Northern Tampa Bay Water Use Caution Area to ensure continued success. Currently, Tampa Bay Water has a consolidated water use permit that includes all 10 wellfields in the area for an annual daily average of 90 million gallons. Tampa Bay Water has submitted a request to renew its consolidated water use permit for another 10 years at the current withdrawal level, which will go to the District’s Governing Board for approval later this year.

Construction Licensing Board seeking new members

The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board is seeking applicants to fulfill the remaining terms for two vacancies. One is for a residential contractor and the other is for a consumer representative.

Mandatory applications can be found at www.pinellascounty.org/boards and must be received no later than 3 p.m. on April 29. All terms of office expire on Sept. 30 of the last year of the term.

The PCCLB consists of 15 members from various trades, along with building officials, a fire official and two consumer representatives. Members must be residents of Pinellas County.

Terms for these positions are four years, not to serve more than two consecutive terms. However, individuals may be reappointed after a two-year hiatus. This limitation does not apply to the governmental building official or fire official appointees.

Meetings are held every other month, usually the third Tuesday, starting at 12:30 p.m. Average meeting time is 3 hours, depending on the agenda.

County commissioners will review all applications and make its appointments at an upcoming commission meeting.

Note: All materials submitted to Pinellas County government are subject to the public records law of the state of Florida.

Property appraiser and sons play music at Ferg’s

ST. PETERSBURG — After waiting more than a year to get back on stage, Mike Twitty, Pinellas County Property Appraiser, and his band, Folk University, opened for Everclear April 2 at Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill in St. Petersburg.

"We all need an outlet. Some people play golf, some people play tennis," said Twitty.

Alongside this elected official are his two sons, Zachary on the keyboard and Sam on the drums, while the Twitty brothers' childhood friend Andrew Cadavid slaps the bass.

"It gives you pride to know that your kids are following in your footsteps to some degree, and they are getting that same pleasure out of music," said Twitty. "I saw the difference music made in my life, having it all throughout, and it was something I wanted to pass onto my kids."

For the past year, the Twitty's own family living room in Largo has served as their music sanctuary as they waited for concert venues to reopen.

"I don't really have any other outlets to play music live like this, so it's really enjoyable being able to come here, practice here," said Cadavid.

Twitty even reverted to taking requests from his staff over Zoom meetings.

"To challenge myself, I let them all submit songs, and I pick one of their songs, and I perform that for them," said Twitty.

Then came the news they'll never forget; live shows weren't only returning, but Folk University was asked to open for the band Everclear.

"I've never opened for someone who has been a chart-topper like Everclear," said Twitty.

"We were actually at the gym the other day, and one of Everclear's songs came on the radio, and we were like, 'Wow! We are going to be opening for these guys,' and it was super cool it kind of just hit," said Sam Twitty.

It's especially sentimental for Mike, who played in Ferg's original house band in the early 90s when the bar first opened, and now here he is, playing 30 years later, with his own sons.

"You know, 'is it time to hang it up, do I really want to keep doing this,' and once you get in front of an audience and you see their reaction that reinforces why you do it," said Twitty.