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Pinellas County To Receive Additional $3 Million For Red Tide Cleanup

Stephen Splane
WUSF Public Media
Fish apparently killed by red tide washed up on the shore of Indian Rocks Beach in Oct. 2018.

While the fish kills have stopped washing up on Pinellas County beaches, red tide is still an ongoing problem in the area. The Board of Commissioners voted recently on an agreement with the state that would give the county an additional three million dollars for red tide cleanup.

Before the vote, Kelli Levy, Director of Environmental Management for Pinellas, gave commissioners an update on the bloom at the county's beaches. Showing a map of recent algae concentrations, Levy said, for a change, the entire coastline isn't covered in red.

“It’s clear for the first time in several months,” Levy said. “We’re receiving really positive feedback from the community about that, being able to be out there and breathe.”

But it's not going to keep the county from preparing for another bloom.

“Even though we're starting to see this go away for us, I'm not going to stop monitoring it and make sure that if we were going to expect something in the spring that we're prepared for it,” Levy said.

While fish kills have stopped washing up in Pinellas County, Levy said they don’t know what’s going on offshore because August through December’s weather provides the best conditions for red tide to grow.

“Right now is prime time for red tide development,” she said. “The Gulf of Mexico is 72 degrees, which is perfect for red tide.”

The county has already removed 1,820 tons of red tide debris from beaches. Part of the grant money will help the county recover the money spent on disposal.

The funds come from a grant from Governor Rick Scott for red tide relief efforts. It brings the total of cleanup funds to $6.3 million.

Originally, the county only had until next month to use the money, but with the extra money, it will now last until March of next year.

Bethany Hanson is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.