Category Archives: Environment

Hurricane Irma orphaned baby squirrels in DeBary, elsewhere

 

Lisa Kestory gave the furry critter a kiss.

“When God wants to remind humans what falling love feels like, He sends a baby squirrel,” Kestory said on Facebook today.

The squirrel rehabber at Ahopha Wildlife Rescue said 22 baby squirrels, as well as other displaced animals, are being cared for at the DeLeon Springs-based nonprofit owned by Tom Scotti.

SquirrelGirl, as Kestory is called, recently set up an account on GoFundme.com to help Ahopha Wildlife Rescue rescue squirrels and other animals displaced or injured by Hurricane Irma.

Most of the rescued animals are birds, including waterfowl and sandhill cranes, as well as “lots” of baby squirrels, she wrote.

“Donations are desperately needed for rescue supplies, pet formula, nipples and syringes, medical supplies, medical care and most importantly, FUEL for the Ahopha Wildlife Rescue vehicle to be able to get to the wildlife at rescue locations all over Central Florida, so they can be taken to the local rehabbers and Veterinarians for emergency care,” the GoFundme account says.
Baby squirrels were found across west Volusia after the storm.

On Sept. 11 , the day after Irma, Ej Bielen‎ posted this on the DeBary Proud! Facebook page:
“Found a baby squirrel in the Streets on naranja and Valencia. He’s still alive and has a small injury to his tail. We bandaged him up. He had a sibling next to him that unfortunately didn’t survive due to cars driving through. Luckily we found him before the next car did. He is very young and not moving too much but looks to be breathing normal. Eyes are still closed. If anyone has any tips on how to care for him or wants to help us out please provide guidance. Thank you.”

Kestory’s call for help prompted positive responses online.

Brandy Dantas of DeLand said this to Kestory on Facebook: “Do y’all need any blankets or supplies like that no extra money right now but can see what I have around the house to donate. Would love to help out any way I can Tom does amazing work and I have brought a few baby squirrels to him in the past.”

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‘This is the time to hunker down,’ Volusia manager says



Volusia County officials tonight urged residents to stay indoors as Hurricane Irma hammers Florida. A countywide curfew begins at 9 p.m. today and lasts until noon Monday.

“This is the time to hunker down,” said Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen.

About 4,000 people are currently in emergency shelters in Volusia County. He said the most damaging winds are expected between 11 p.m. today through 10 a.m. Monday.  Gusts of 75 miles per hour are possible.

“We strongly advise that everyone stay inside and not go out in the storm,” Dinneen said. “The ground is saturated from the rain and power lines may be down.”

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said officers will use “discretion and common sense” while enforcing the curfew.

“Those who are evacuating, unavoidably traveling for work or who have an urgent need to travel in the area are free to do so if absolutely necessary.” a county news release said. “The intent of the curfew is to keep people safe, discourage loitering and prevent looting – which won’t be tolerated.”

Other updates from the county:

  • All bridges in Volusia County to the beachside are closed.
  • The north causeway in New Smyrna Beach and the Main Street Bridge in Daytona Beach have westbound lanes open for those who are leaving beachside.
  • Turnbull Bay Bridge in New Smyrna Beach and Highbridge in Ormond Beach are closed.

The number for the Citizens Information Center is 866-345-0345.

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Volusia’s sea-turtle nesting season by the numbers

The numbers are looking good for sea turtles on Volusia County beaches this year.

This is the peak nesting season and the indications are another record year is on tap.

Consider these tallies of the nests by species on Volusia beaches so far for 2017:
• 628 Loggerhead sea turtle nests
• 55 Green sea turtle nests
• 4 Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests

The four Kemp’s ridley nests mark a record for the smallest and most endangered sea turtle.

There have been only nine other recorded Kemp’s ridley nests in
Volusia County since 1998:

  • Two in 1996
  • One in 1998
  • One in 2005
  • One in 2010
  • One in 2012
  • Two in 2014
  • One in 2016

Sea-turtle nesting continues through early September. Nest-hatching season follows in late September and into October.

“This is an extremely important time in the life of a sea turtle,” the county said in a news release this week. “This is when sea turtles emerge from their nests and the baby turtles will make an often-treacherous crawl to the ocean, dodging predators, holes, trash, vehicle ruts and beach furniture.”

If a turtle appears to be in immediate danger, notify a lifeguard or beach safety officer or call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.

For more information about Volusia County’s sea turtle program, call 386-238-4668 or visit www.volusiaseaturtles.org. For questions about outdoor-lighting restrictions, call 386-238-4773.

DeBary’s Gemini Springs lands $380K for runoff cleanup

A $50 million cleanup plan for Florida’s springs includes cash to protect Gemini Springs and other water bodies in Volusia County.

  • More than $380,000 from state, water district and local authorities will pay for efforts in DeBary to help clean runoff from 200 acres flowing into Gemini Springs.
  • About $1.2 million from state, district and locals will fund a project designed to reduce water withdrawals from Blue Spring in Orange City.
  • Nearly $390,000 for a separate project will help pay to remove 179 septic tanks that threaten the health of Blue Spring.
  • An additional $2 million is earmarked for Blue, Silver and
    Wekiva to voluntarily replace and retrofit septic tanks at an estimated cost of $10,000 per tank.
  • Another $2.5 million is approved to reduce pollution in DeLeon Springs. The money will pay for a conservation easement to transition Fieser Dairy from a highly intensive dairy operation to a less intensive ranching operation.
  • “It is estimated that this project will result in a nutrient reduction of more than 200 pounds of total nitrogen per day and more than 80 pounds of total phosphorus per day,” the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in a news release.

The state and St. Johns River Water Management District are each chipping in $95,000, and local authorities will provide $190,000, for the Gemini Springs project.

It will pay for “nutrient separating baffle boxes” with “enhanced
nutrient reduction from stormwater and surficial groundwater along Dirksen Drive in Volusia County and upstream of the marsh inflow to Gemini Springs Run,” according to documents released by Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office. The property in the Fredricka Road area receives runoff from the 123-acre “Plantation Estates to the north, which was constructed prior to the stormwater treatment era,” documents state. “The Mansion Blvd. site receives runoff from an additional 85 acres of Plantation Estates. ”

Scott’s office and the Florida DEP on Monday announced $50 million for 40 projects.  The so called Fighting for Florida’s Future budget will “improve water quality, reduce nutrient loading, recharge water supply and protect habitat in Florida’s iconic spring systems,” the Florida DEP said. This includes a state investment of more than $10.2 million to protect springs in Central and Northeast Florida, including the Silver, Wekiva, Volusia Blue and De Leon

“This includes a state investment of more than $10.2 million to protect springs in Central and Northeast Florida, including the Silver, Wekiva, Volusia Blue and De Leon springsheds,” a statement said. “Combined with match funding from Florida’s water management districts and local partners, the investment in springs projects statewide will total more than $94 million during the 2017-18 fiscal year.”

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DeBary may require reclaimed water for irrigating new developments

DeBary would require new developments to use reclaimed water for irrigation under a conservation measure tentatively approved last week.

The ordinance needs a second and final approval before taking effect. Reclaimed water, also called gray water, is a byproduct of sewage treatment.

It is treated enough for irrigation but it is unsafe for human consumption.

One of the goals of using reclaimed water is to reduce consumption of the Floridan aquifer for irrigation.

“This is actually a conservation effort to save … drinking water,” city Growth Management Director Matt Boerger told City Council members on July 5.

Although the ordinance was unanimously approved by the City Council, one member – Stephen Bacon — initially said he was against the measure.

Bacon said he was concerned about the financial impact on future homeowners for irrigation lines and the motivation of government to charge for irrigation water.

Reclaimed is typically less expensive than potable water.

“It seems like an awful lot of costs and another thing government is into your pockets, you know, for maybe not the right reasons,” Bacon said.

He noted that a neighbor in his community – the gated River Oaks subdivision – put in a well just for irrigation of his neighborhood’s 75 homes.

“We can water our lawns very nicely,” Bacon said.

In response, DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia reiterated that the intent of the ordinance is to lessen the impact on underground drinking-water supplies.

“If you tap into the well, you’re going into the aquifer,” Garcia said. “The whole purpose of the reclaimed is conservation.”

Using reclaimed water isn’t a new concept in DeBary, Central Florida or the country.

Two DeBary subdivisions — DeBary Golf & Country Club and Glenn Abbey — have reclaimed available for irrigation. Elsewhere in Central Florida, Altamonte Springs is considered a pioneer in reclaimed water projects.

DeBary City Council member Erika Benfield urged Bacon to investigate that city’s system, which serves nearly every home and business.

DeBary city officials said future development in the city would be required to tap into reclaimed water mains when they are within 1,000 feet if the proposed ordinance is approved

If those mains are farther away, developers would still be required to install “dry lines” for irrigation, which would be connected to mains when they come within reach.

Steve Costa, who represents key DeBary landowners, said he supports using reclaimed water for irrigation, but he wants to make sure the city anticipates certain details.

For example, what would happen if a future development is unable to tap into reclaimed lines because of easement issues, he asked.

Costa represents owners of roughly 60 acres southeast of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Dirksen Drive, where a  mixed-use development of residential and business uses is envisioned.

It is part of a roughly 200-acre transit-oriented development (TOD) district along U.S Highway 17-92 targeted for future growth around the DeBary SunRail station.

No irrigation mains exist near his property now, Costa noted.

“There has to be some type of public easement to get water to a project,” he said. “That creates a burden on the property owner. How do you do that?”

He reiterated his support for the concept and asked for his concerns be considered before final approval. Garcia said officials can consider his concerns before the second version is approved.

“I don’t want to create something that happens where we created an ordinance now that shuts down development because we can’t get an easement done or something,” Costa said, adding that easements can be made part of a development plan before final approval. “But if the easement doesn’t exist, it might just kill a project. I don’t want that to happen.”

Reclaimed Water Mandate Ordinance Final Draft

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DeBary: Close 6-mile trail gap using $1.1M in grants

The Spring-to-Spring Trail got a boost from the DeBary City Council on Wednesday.

Council members directed staffers to work with Volusia County to close a 6-mile trail gap, preferably using state grant funds,  between Orange City and DeBary.

“We want the trail very badly,” DeBary Golf & Country Club resident Denise Walton told council members. “We know it will help our property values. We don’t want to see it disappear.”

Plans to connect Blue Spring State Park in Orange City to Gemini Springs Park in DeBary with a continuous recreational trail lost steam over the years, even as other trail projects moved forward.

It has become more of a priority now as DeBary sharpens its vision for 200 acres along U.S. Highway 17-92 designated as a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay District.

The property is anchored by the SunRail station and linked to trails, considered by home builders as the top amenity sought by homebuyers, according to Interim City Manager Ron McLemore.

Recreational trails boost property values, he said.

“Trails are tremendous assets to communities,” McLemore added.

Closing the DeBary Gap will also link the River City to two larger, high-priority trails, according to former County Council member and trail fan Pat Northey.

It would link DeBary to the St. Johns River to Sea Loop and connect to Florida’s Coast-to-Coast Trail system.

Northey is a member of the St Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance and assured DeBary officials they would get her organization’s support to lobby the state for construction dollars.

“This is a priority to them,” she said. “They want to see this get done.”

By tapping into the River-to-Sea loop, Northey said, DeBary would lure trail explorers who are interested in spending locally. “It’s going to bring money, high-end tourism dollars,” Northey said.

The option favored by staffers and City Council members calls for teaming up with Volusia County to build the pathway on the west side of Donald E. Smith Boulevard.

Part of the proposed route would run between the Duke Energy plant and DeBary Golf and Country Club on Donald E. Smith Boulevard. Another segment would run from Donald E. Smith Boulevard along Highbanks Road near Rob Sullivan Park.  Another part would run along the train tracks to Benson Junction Boulevard.

Then it would link to the trail at Gemini Springs Park, where an existing trail is located.

Residents who spoke about the trail proposal gave positive reviews, though some expressed concerns about existing traffic problems.

Joan Sandler of the DeBary Golf & Country Club said there are five intersections along Donald E. Smith Boulevard within less than a mile. She wants the county to help the city make the trails safer since they are used by a variety of people, including golf cart drivers.

“We’re all painfully aware that the city of DeBary has had more of its fair share of bad press during the past couple of months. We are fortunately starting to turn things around,” Sandler said. “Let’s make sure that we aren’t in the headlines again for being the city that prevented the Spring to Spring Trail from becoming a reality.

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DeBary Gap: 6-mile trail link may cost $1M

Recreational trails are envisioned as crucial for DeBary’s future. But building a car-free pathway for walkers, runners, bicyclists and others remains an unfulfilled dream.

DeBary City Council members could take a step toward making that vision a reality when they meet tonight (July 5).

City staffers are seeking direction from council members on the so-called DeBary Gap, a nearly 6-mile route that, if built, would connect the River City to other major trail systems in Florida.

The option favored by staffers calls for teaming up with Volusia County to build the pathway on the west side of Donald E. Smith Boulevard, a project estimated to cost $1.1 million.

The funding would come from state grants under the proposal from staffers.

Part of the proposed route would run between the Duke Energy plant and DeBary Golf and Country Club on Donald E. Smith Boulevard. Another segment would run from Donald E. Smith Boulevard along Highbanks Road near Rob Sullivan Park.  Another part would run along the train tracks to Benson Junction Boulevard.

Then it would link to the trail at Gemini Springs Park.

Building the DeBary Gap would connect the Spring to Spring Trail between DeLeon Springs and DeBary.

It would also link to the St. Johns River to Sea Loop and a connect to Florida’s Coast-to-Coast Trail system, according to a memo from DeBary Growth Management Director Matt Boerger.

Boerger said he is asking for direction from City Council for a trail alignment before DeBary loses an opportunity to secure grant financing.

The city has been part of the county’s trail system for years.

A paved pathway stretches from Gemini Springs Park through Deltona and into Osteen.

Plans call for linking that trail to the 250-mile Coast-to-Coast Trail between St. Petersburg and Canaveral National Seashore.

Closing the DeBary Gap would help connect the St. Johns River to Sea Loop, a 300-trail linking St. Augustine to Titusville with a route along the coast and through west Volusia.

As recently as June, council members voiced support for trails, calling them a desired amenity that will help lure development to DeBary.

That’s when DeBary approved a vision for roughly 200 acres along U.S. Highway 17-92 called designated as a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay District.

The property is anchored by the SunRail station and linked to trails that would expand by closing the DeBary Gap.

“The construction of the DeBary Gap could provide a cohesive bike/ped pathway to local amenities such as Sunrail, TOD, Gemini Springs, microbreweries, and Rob Sullivan Park,” Boerger said in a memo. “Additionally, the trail may provide for regional connectivity to all businesses, attractions, and assets associated with those communities within the” St. Johns River to Sea Loop.

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DeBary poised to adopt tough fertilizer restrictions

DeBary is poised to adopt tough turf-lawn fertilizer restrictions — a move aimed at improving the quality of local waterways.

Fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus will be banned during the summer under an ordinance set for approval Wednesday, June 7, by the DeBary City Council.

Council members voted for the ordinance during the first reading May 3.

Assuming DeBary approves it on second reading, the ordinance will adopt the same rules as Volusia County’s.

These are some of the rules:

  • Fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorous are banned from June 1 through Sept. 30 of each year.
  • Fertilizer may not be applied within 15 feet of water bodies.
  • The application of fertilizers containing phosphorous is prohibited unless a deficiency is verified.

Limiting nitrogen and phosphorous is part of a larger effort to keep local waterways clean or reduce existing pollution.

“Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle,” according to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection. “Significant increases in algae harm water quality, food resources, and habitats, and decrease the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive.”

Algae blooms are triggered by nutrients in the waterway and those growths can cut or eliminate oxygen in the water, leading to illnesses and deaths of fish.

Blooms can hurt people, too, because they generate toxins and fuel bacterial growth.

The ban is also aimed at improving the quality of local springs, including Blue Spring in Orange City and Gemini Springs in DeBary.

About 22 percent of the nitrogen identified in spring water comes from turf grass fertilizer, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal.

The soil in central Florida normally contains enough phosphorus to meet a turf’s nutrient needs, according to Volusia County.

Residents can use phosphorus if they get a soil test to show a phosphorus deficiency.

“The soil test must be verified using the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) approved testing methodology,” the county says online.

To find out more about soil testing, contact the University of Florida/Volusia County Extension at 386-822-5778.

DeBary Fertilizer Ordinance 04-17

DeBary’s stormwater fees enrage 2 business owners as city seeks relief

DeBary flooding
DeBary flooding

Two DeBary business owners hammered the City Council recently over the escalating cost of building, managing and maintaining drainage in the River City.

The debate surfaced during a workshop Wednesday as council members continue to refine proposals to both give stormwater credits to certain business owners and make the fees more equitable for homeowners.

Homeowners in DeBary pay $192 annually for homes on public roads, a fee that was increased from $84.

The fee, imposed after widespread flooding, was enacted in 2005 at $84 per home and raised to its current level in 2015.

Homeowners generate $1.3 million of revenue for the roughly $2 million per year stormwater program.

Commercial and industrial property owners, who pay for most of the rest of the program, are charged based on the amount of so-called impervious surface areas on their properties. That includes rooftops and parking lots.

Kenny Patterson of American Auto Salvage & Recycling and Benson Junction Trading Depot said city officials are “double taxing” business owners who made drainage upgrades but still have to pay annual fees. He questioned the need for the upgrades, noting how certain sandy soils in Florida absorb water quickly.

“It sucks water into the sand. It’s gone,” he said.

Mildred Piper, who built The Village of DeBary commercial plaza at 2955 Enterprise Road roughly 10 years ago, said her stormwater upgrades were so extensive, they cost $250,000. She worries about her annual fees.

“I shouldn’t be charged $5,000 a year,” she said.

City Council member Erika Benfield assured Piper that her concerns have not “fallen on deaf ears.”

“What is the city actually doing for her?” added City Council member Stephen Bacon.

City officials are considering a credit, possibly worth as much as 25 percent, for certain commercial and industrial land owners.  They would have to apply for the discount and demonstrate they adequately manage stormwater onsite. The discount is estimated to reduce revenue from commercial and industrial property owners by 4 to 6 percent, or about $75,000 and $125,000 said stormwater consultant David Hamstra.

DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia said he favors giving business owners some relief.

“I’m looking for some answers for the credit,” he said. Hamstra said both Orange City and Deltona offer similar discounts and the impact on their

Erika Benfield
Erika Benfield

budgets has been minimal.

Applicants must hire an engineer to regularly inspect the stormwater systems to show they are functioning properly.

City staffers are expected to refine the stormwater funding proposals for both businesses and homeowners

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

before the next workshop, scheduled for 6 p.m. May 10 at City Hall,  16 Colomba Road.

City officials are also thinking about switching from the existing flat-rate fee for homeowers to a new system that would charge small homes less and large homes more.

For example, under one proposal, a house with less than 2,000 square feet would pay $100, a savings of $92. But a house under that same proposal with more than 4,500 square feet would pay $350, a substantial increase.

Benfield proposed a new category that would shift some of the burden to owners of homes that are larger than 6,000 square feet. That would help reduce the $350 rate, she and other council members stated.

Under a proposal likely to change for the next workshop, 1,310 households would get a $92 fee reduction and 2,739 would get a $17 cut. The same proposal would increase the fee by $58 for 2,457 property owners. Finally,  914 households — the largest ones in the city — would see an additional $158 charge for a total of $350.

The city scrambled after widespread flooding hit DeBary during storms in 2004 and 2008. Since then, the city has installed stormwater upgrades valued at roughly $30 million.

Two years after the first flood, DeBary voters in 2006 approved a $10 million bond to help jumpstart the drainage upgrades.

If the city rolled back the fee to $84 but didn’t add some other form of revenue, it would only collect enough to pay for the annual debt payments of $700,000. The city has 12 more years of loan payments.

Under that scenario, no new projects couldn’t be constructed, existing ones couldn’t be maintained and public-works employees would likely be laid off, council members were told at a previous workshop.

DeBary Stormwater

Turtle Day: Free entry Saturday at Marine Science Center

Free entry to the county’s Marine Science Center is a highlight of this year’s Turtle Day on Saturday — two days before sea turtle nesting season begins.

The center, at 100 Lighthouse Drive in Ponce Inlet, will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for the 15th annual event.

“Animal rehabilitation staff will explain how they care for injured birds and sea turtles, while vendors will sell food, beverages andfrozen custard,” the county said in a news release.

Then, on Monday, sea turtle nesting season will begin. That means residents are required to turn off or shield lights so they don’t shine on the beach, the county said. It ends on Oct. 31.

“We need everybody’s help to make this a safe and productive
nesting season,” Jennifer Winters, Volusia County’s sea turtle Habitat Conservation Plan program manager, said in a statement. “We encourage residents and visitors to play safely, protect wildlife and respect the beach. That includes letting only the natural moonlight provide the light at night.”

The season already started, unofficially, because of a warmer winter and ocean temperatures in the 70s, Winters said.

Two days ago, the county announced a rare Kemp’s
ridley sea turtle was spotted nesting, staking a claim in Ponce Inlet.

Kemp’s ridley is a critically endangered species and is considered the rarest sea turtle species found nesting in Florida, the county said.

Since 1988,

There have been only nine other recorded Kemp’s ridley nests in
Volusia County since 1998:

  • Two in 1996
  • One in 1998
  • One in 2005
  • One in 2010
  • One in 2012
  • Two in 2014
  • One in 2016

For more information about Volusia County’s sea turtle program, call 386-238-4668 or visit www.volusiaseaturtles.org. For lighting questions, call 386-238-4773.