What does START do to help improve the quality of our waterways?

Nutrients in the waterway

START has a three-pronged approach to help reduce excess nutrients:

1.    Public Education Program: START provides a variety of educational materials to inform the community about the importance of reducing excess nutrients in our coastal waters including:

  • Website at start1.org
  • Monthly E-Newsletter
  • Activity Brochure
  • PSA’s for local TV stations
  • Red Tide & You presentation
  • Healthy Pond presentation

The Red Tide & You presentation answers the following five questions:

  1. What causes red tide blooms?
  2. Why are they so prevalent here on the Suncoast?
  3. What is being done to control red tide?
  4. What is START doing to control excess nutrients in our waterways?
  5. How can you help reduce your nutrient footprint to improve water quality?

To arrange a screening of Red Tide & You or our Healthy Pond presentation for your organization, contact START at Colleen@start1.org.

2.    Water Quality Outreach Program: START stays in contact with federal, state and local policy makers to encourage them to fund nutrient reducing programs including:

A.     Finding a viable solution to keep the polluted releases from Lake Okeechobee out of our waterways

B.     Requesting more funding support for our local governments to be able to upgrade their wastewater treatment plants, convert more septic systems to sewers and upgrade inefficient stormwater ponds

Wastewater Treatment Plant

3.     Nutrient Control Programs: START forms partnerships with other water quality organizations to maintain the following nutrient reduction programs:

A.     Oysters are an important natural nutrient-reducing species as they can filter from 9 to 50 gallons of seawater every day and they are resistant to red tide. The Gulf Coast Oyster Recycle and Renewal (GCORR) Program saves shell from diners at eight Manatee County Shuck ‘N Save Restaurants that are transported by Waste Pro USA to a County storage area where they are cured over time and will be used to restore oyster reefs along the Manatee River.

Click here -> Learn about the award-winning GCORR program.

Volunteers with oyster bags

B.   The Southern Quahog clam is native to our waters and is also an important water filtering part of our marine ecosystem. These clams typically filter from 9 to 12 gallons of water a day and create furrows that help promote seagrass growth. START continues its ongoing partnership with the Sarasota Bay Watch to help fund their Clam Seeding Program that has now seeded over two million clams in Sarasota Bay.

Click here -> For more details about the Clam Seeding environmental program.

START is also a partner in the highly successful All Clams On Deck Program led by founding START Board member, Ed Chiles of Chiles Hospitality, who spearheaded a funding effort that produced $5.5 million to date for the Gulf Shellfish Institute to conduct further research on the role that clams and seagrass can play together to improve water quality in our coastal waters.
An appropriation of $2.5 million came from the State of Florida, $500 thousand was provided by Manatee County and $2.5 million came through a federal appropriation.

The program will further the growth of the clam industry, document the concept of coastal restoration through clams and seagrass and demonstrate through research the role clams and seagrass can play in improving water quality, mitigating red tide and sequestering carbon. Clams offer a variety of food benefits and seagrass provides critical habitat for 70% of our sea life during some time in their life cycle. This valuable research is expected to generate other clam and seagrass projects throughout Florida and beyond in other parts of the country and the world.

Click here -> Learn more at allclamsondeck.org.

Volunteers with oyster bagsC.   Unfortunately, despite the efforts of many organizations and people  nitrogen, the primary food source for Harmful Algal Blooms like red tide, has doubled in Sarasota Bay since 2000. One of the main sources of this alarming increase is stormwater. As a result, START is expanding its efforts with programs and projects that help reduce the excess nutrients in stormwater. Our funding support for the innovative four-part stormwater filtration system at Bay Park in Sarasota with its 650-foot Denitrification Barrier, new seeded clam colony, pending oyster restoration project and reef balls will annually filter over 300 million gallons of stormwater from neighboring streets and the 53-acre Park before it runs into the Bay.

START is a founding member of the Suncoast Urban Reforesters (SURF), a coalition of nonprofits that plants high-performance microforests on small parcels of land not slated for further development. Microforests are dense, thicket-like stands of diverse native plant life that intercept and divert significant quantities of stormwater that would otherwise transport excess nutrients into our waterways. Using a highly engineered approach developed by Japanese Botanist Akira Miyawaki, SURF volunteers lay down a simulated and highly absorbent forest floor of cardboard covered with woodchips and install three saplings per meter to create shade stress that prompts fast growth and heavy water absorption. Microforests help promote coastal water quality by reducing erosion, developing new habitat for wildlife displaced by urbanization and sequestering carbon as a hedge against climate change. For more information about planting a Microforests in your community, contact Charles Reith at SURF at charles.c.reith @ gmail.com.


Volunteers Planting a Microforest

Stormwater runoff accounts for 65% of the nitrogen in Sarasota Bay. With most of our stormwater detention ponds along the Suncoast functioning at only 40% to 60% efficiency in removing excess nutrients before the water flows downstream, START continues our important work helping local communities improve their ailing stormwater ponds.
Now in the second year of the major grant from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation that created the Healthy Pond Collaboration, we have advised over 50 communities about how to enhance their stormwater ponds and funded the purchase of native aquatic plants covering over 7.2 miles of new pond shoreline in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

If your stormwater ponds are plagued with unsightly algal growth like the pond below:

Ailing Stormwater Pond filled with algae

Algae filled pond

Or threatened by costly erosion as shown below:

START - pond with eroding banks

Pond with eroding banks

Click Here -> To learn how the Healthy Pond Collaborative can help.