State officials paying lip service to water quality

mike roth in action In: State officials paying lip service to water quality | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Mike Roth Speaks of Clean Water

OSFR President Mike Roth speaks the truth and of reality, something our water leaders want to avoid.  The serious measures that he mentions at the end of his article are not coming now.  We wonder when, if ever.

Yes, growth and much more will be curtailed when we have no clean water.

Read this article here on line in the Gainesville Sun.  It will appear in the Sunday, June 30 hard copy.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-

Mike Roth: State officials paying lip service to water quality

By Mike Roth / Special to The Sun

Posted Jun 27, 2018 at 2:00 AM

A growing recognition of the degradation of water quality nationwide led to federal legislation in 2002 to establish Total Maximum Daily Loads for waterways, representing the maximum quantity of pollutants that a waterway could safely integrate.

The Florida Legislature directed the Department of Environmental Protection, in order to fairly allocate TMDLs among dischargers of pollutants, to create Basin Management Action Plans for various defined watershed basins.

The Santa Fe River Basin BMAP was created in 2012, which documented the various pollution sources, set water-quality goals and provided a set of recommended guidelines as a planning tool to attain those goals. Agriculture, the biggest nitrogen polluter in the Santa Fe basin, was prescribed a set of best management practices that farms were asked to voluntarily follow.

Other stakeholders (industry, lawn care/golf course denizens, power plant producers, etc.) were also asked through the BMAP to curtail their polluting by various means. No requirements were set and no penalties prescribed; this was to be a voluntary effort by all stakeholders (even though the legislative directive was for more forceful measures).

No particular time frame was established in the BMAP and, in 2018, a study of waters in various areas in the Santa Fe River basin demonstrated that the nitrogen content was unchanged. The Legislature apparently realized earlier that progress was too slow and passed the Springs Restoration Act in 2016 that required the creation of … Basin Management Action Plans by July 1, 2018. (Sound familiar?)

So, the Department of Environmental Protection created new plans, and introduced the first draft of the new document five weeks before it was mandated to be implemented. And, in this “new” document, polluting sources were identified, agriculture was prescribed best management practices and other stakeholders were asked to curtail polluting by various means. Outside of some changes to the rules regarding septic systems, no requirements were set and no penalties prescribed.

What do you think the BMAP of 2023 will look like?

The Legislature can demonstrate that it is doing something about the growing pollution of our waterways, and the Department of Environmental Protection can show that it’s working diligently to follow the lead of the Legislature, and the waters of Florida continue to degrade. This is because, despite all this lip service, the leadership of Florida does not have the political will to rein in its constituents in any kind of forceful manner. (Except for the unlucky individuals consisting of a minor percentage of polluters who are trying to put a septic system on less than one acre.)

Water has a significant value, and yet its users (and abusers) are not forced to pay for it. Why? Is it because it might cause the curtailment of growth? Wait until you see the curtailment of growth when the water is polluted beyond use — oh, right, that won’t be until our grandchildren attain the majority.

This lack of political will was front and center at the last Suwannee River Water Management District board meeting, where the staff scientists used studies and data to recommend that the board designate an additional portion of the Santa Fe River as a “cautionary” area (some of the district is already so designated). Despite the scientific evidence, two members of the governor’s hand-picked board became downright whiny about the need to classify it so.

They were afraid it would make it look like our waterways were in trouble. Are they really that out of touch?

If we want Florida to turn into the nation’s toilet, we’re well on our way. But if we want to preserve the unique beauty that is the Florida we inherited, serious measures — measures that may not get the financial support of big agriculture and big industry, but are the right thing to do, are necessary, and soon.

Mike Roth is president of Our Santa Fe River Inc.

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