Axios Tampa Bay

Picture of the Tampa Bay skyline with TPA written across it.

Tuesday, hey!

☀️ Sunny, with a high of around 78 today.

Today's newsletter is 950 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: 1,000 dead manatees

Illustration of a pattern of manatees.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

One thousand manatees have died in Florida waters this year — a heartbreaking number for a state that celebrates the big, slow, beautiful dopes.

  • This is by far the deadliest year for manatees and far more than the previous record: 830 in 2013.

Flashback: After we passed this terrible milestone, we were curious about the first reported death. While ground zero for manatee deaths appears to be the depleted winter feeding grounds in the Indian River Lagoon on the east coast, it turns out the first was right here. And it is pitiful.

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's first report of a dead manatee this year came at 6:30am on January 1 from a woman who lived on a canal just north of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa side.
  • The woman, identified simply as Elly in the FWC report, had seen the manatee the night before, as New Year’s Eve fireworks lit the sky across Tampa Bay.

FWC gave the manatee its first name: MNW21001, female, a few inches over 7 feet long.

  • Elly no longer lives on the canal, but told us that she always felt like it was a grand privilege — an honor — to see manatees in the wild. And she was sad to see a dead one.
  • Some might find the photo FWC provided Axios upsetting.

The next day: A Tampa police officer called FWC to report a dead manatee floating near the Courtney Campbell Causeway boat ramp. But because of the holiday, no one was available.

  • Three days later, a Hillsborough County parks employee reported complaints about a dead manatee.
  • That afternoon, Jan. 5, an FWC employee finally dragged MNW21001 east and secured her in mangroves to decompose.
  • She was not necropsied, so we don’t know how she died. And biologists can only guess as to how she lived — manatees can migrate hundreds of miles.

What we now know: MNW21001 was the first of 1,000 dead manatees this year — national news all year long.

  • And as winter sets in and manatees return to warmer waters, still lacking life-giving seagrass, it could get even worse.

2. How we can help the manatees

illustration of a beached manatee
The West Indian Manatee, James Stewart, 1791–1863. Photo of art work: Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

We asked FWC a dumb question: Is there anything Florida residents can do to help with supplemental feeding?

  • Not, like, throwing store-bought lettuce into the Hillsborough, but ...

What they're saying: Carly Jones from FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute let us know that’s illegal for both individuals and environmental groups.

  • "While this may seem like it would be a great solution, feeding manatees can be considered harassment and is prohibited by state and federal law."

Instead: FWC is working on a list of habitat restoration projects, but here's how you can help:

Bigger still, help improve local water quality by:

  • Cutting out fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Picking up dog poop.
  • Leaving grass clippings and leaves on your lawn.
  • Washing your car on the grass or at the car wash — both ways of preventing contaminated water from flowing directly into waterways.
  • Switching from septic systems to municipal sewer or updating your septic system.
  • Plant a native yard.

3. What we're getting for infrastructure

Illustration of the state of Florida, with scaffolding in front.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

President Biden signed his $1 trillion infrastructure plan into law yesterday, meaning that money for bridges, roads, railways, electric vehicle charging stations, lead pipe replacement, broadband expansion and other new construction is headed to Florida.

Why it matters: As the White House points out, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Florida a C grade on its infrastructure report card. America as a whole scored a C-.

Florida's allotment over the next five years, per that White House report:

🛣 $13.1 billion for roads and $245 million for bridges.

  • The new construction will focus on climate change mitigation as well as equity and safety for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.

🚌 $2.6 billion for public transportation.

🔋 $198 million to expand the electric vehicle charging network.

📶 $100 million for broadband coverage.

  • 30% of Floridians will qualify for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit that helps low-income families afford internet access.

🔥 $26 million to protect against wildfires.

👾 $29 million to protect against cyber attacks.

💧 $1.6 billion to improve drinking water infrastructure.

✈️ $1.2 billion for airport development.

Now hiring

👀 Check out who's hiring on our Job Board.

  1. Territory Sales Manager at Kent Corporation.
  2. Director of Corporate Marketing at Kobie Marketing.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a job.

4. The Pulp: Might se-juice your dad type

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

✈️ Both people on board a small plane were uninjured when it crashed into the bay yesterday near Davis Islands. (Tampa Bay Times)

🚆 The Polk County Commission voted to send a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg endorsing funding for a private Orlando-to-Tampa Brightline train. (The Lakeland Ledger)

💩 Environmental conservation activists plan to sue the city of Bradenton over its history of sewage leaks into the Manatee River. (Bradenton Herald)

5. A sweet goodbye

A man holding a beagle and whispering into its ear
Jack Novoselski, founder of SouthEast Beagle Rescue, whispered the promise of a better life to each dog his organization rescued. Photo courtesy of Lynn Keeney

It's highly likely no one in Tampa Bay loved beagles more than Jack Novoselski.

What's happening: Kristin Hare's latest beautiful obit for the Tampa Bay Times memorializes Novoselsk, a dog-loving hero who died Sept. 28 of COVID-19. He was 76 and fully vaccinated.

Why he matters: After founding SouthEast Beagle Rescue in Carrollwood 10 years ago, Novoselski saved about 1,600 beagles by working 60- to 100-hour weeks.

  • Novoselski drove 40,000 miles a year to pick up dogs from kill shelters as far as Alabama and Louisiana in his SUV, "The Beagle Bus," volunteers with the organization told Hare.
  • He would whisper into the ear of every dog he rescued — no matter how mangy or scared — that everything was going to be OK and no one would hurt them again.

Go deeper: Stories of the dogs and people he brought together.

three beagles on a couch
From left: Harvey, Buddy and Daisy — all rescued by Novoselski. Photo courtesy of Deb Wolf

🥴 Ben is frazzled.

🧥 Selene is loving all the wacky, wonderful looks Harry Styles posed for in "Dazed."

Little subscriptions fell giant oaks.