Preserving water quality is a primary concern for Bobbi Rodgers and volunteers at the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center.
Rodgers, resource manager at the center, is looking for new volunteers for the Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network and will be hosting a training session at 9 a.m. Friday at the Cedar Point Environmental Park on 2300 Placida Road, Englewood.
She coordinates the Lemon Bay and Gasparilla Sound area to assist in monitoring water activity for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“It’s a multi-county program,” Rodgers said. “I have 25 volunteers in the area.”
The program has been operating since 1997 and Rodgers is in charge of 16 sites which are evaluated on the first Monday of every month.
“We’ll be out for two hours on Friday for training,” she said. “I like to have alternates. The more the merrier.” A couple of requirements, Rodgers said, are for volunteers to be vigilant and be early morning people. Volunteers Bill McSharry and Lou Kovach are retired chemists. “I do it because I think it’s an important program,” said McSharry, a Port Charlotte resident. Kovach, a Venice resident, covers Forked Creek, which is part of Lemon Bay.
“When I monitor water activity, I make sure it meets DEP standards,” Kovach said. “I do the same side every month. It’s kind of a routine. It’s fun.”
Melynda Brown, the DEP aquatic preserve coordinator based in Punta Gorda, works with Rodgers on data collection.
“I’ve been on board since 2004,” Brown said. “We saw decreased nutrients from the watershed. Since then, we’ve seen improvements. With increased rain that means we have more tannin color in the water, like dark mangrove tea. It’s important for estuaries. You can see an increase of nutrients.”
Brown said water tends to be healthier around the Gulf. While the recent rain activity is helping to stimulate the nutrients in the water, too much of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous can promote algae blooms.
Despite the program being around for only 16 years, Rodgers said it takes about 10 years to develop trends.
“Lemon Bay is pretty clean and healthy,” Rodgers said. “We train everybody on the equipment. They get a probe they stick in the water. It records data and they document.” Brown said the key to success of the program is the volunteers. “We can’t do this program without them,” she said.
For more information, call 941-475-0769.