Out of Denial, Into Reality

 

denialmoving out In: Out of Denial, Into Reality | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

District Executive Director Drew Bartlett told board members “you have the authority to do projects and you have the authority to regulate as well.”

Removing pollution, particularly the nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer that cause toxic algae blooms, from water at its source, Bergeron said, “is 20 times cheaper than building projects to clean it up later.”

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) indeed has the authority to stop the nitrates but do they have the will?  Are they ready to take on Big Ag?  Cleaning up the mess doesn’t work, but going to the source will.

We are beginning to hear this now for the first time and that is a huge step forward.   You can’t face reality when you are in denial.  The next and much harder step is to  begin the work.

This situation is in South Florida, but it is the same here and throughout the state.  We are definitely in denial when our water  board members refuse to face facts about pollution sources.  If they continue to refuse, they must be replaced, as occurred with the SFWMD and the sooner the better, as our water sources continue to decline.

Read the original article here in TC Palm.

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


New SFWMD board hints at regulating water polluters, criticizes BMPs honor system

Serving 8.1 million residents and millions of visitors in 16 counties, the South Florida Water Management District does just what its name implies: control water. That means providing flood control when there’s too much water, drinking supplies when there’s not enough and restoring as much of the area’s natural water systems as having all those residents and visitors will allow. TYLER TREADWAY/TCPALM Wochit

WEST PALM BEACH — The newly appointed South Florida Water Management District board hinted Wednesday that besides building water-cleaning projects, they intend to impose stricter regulations on polluters.

And the newest board member led the charge during a workshop on the district’s role in cleaning the state’s water.

Increased nutrient pollution entering Lake Okeechobee “is coming from somewhere,” said Ronald “Alligator Ron” Bergeron, who is scheduled to be sworn in as a board member Thursday. “We’ve got to get a hold on where it’s coming from, and we need to monitor and regulate it before it enters state waters.”

More: After ethics panel OK, Bergeron appointed to SFWMD board

Removing pollution, particularly the nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer that cause toxic algae blooms, from water at its source, Bergeron said, “is 20 times cheaper than building projects to clean it up later.”

District Executive Director Drew Bartlett told board members “you have the authority to do projects and you have the authority to regulate as well.”

Several board members had some serious questions about the state’s system of having farmers use best management practices, commonly known as BMPs, to reduce water pollution.

The most pointed questions came after Vanessa Bessey of the state’s agriculture department noted farmers aren’t required to prove their BMPs are cleaning water before it leaves their land.

More: TCPalm investigation: State puts farmers on honor system to reduce pollution

“Don’t we have a monitoring tool to prove they’re getting the nutrient reduction they say they’re achieving?” asked board member Jay Steinle of Palm Beach County.

“If they implement the BMPs developed and recognized by the (Florida Department of Environmental Protection), there’s the presumption they’re meeting water quality standards,” Bessey replied. “It’s intuitive to us that if they put less fertilizer on their land, there will be less coming off their land.”

Board Vice Chairman Scott Wagner of Miami-Dade County was incredulous, saying the program was “based on theory” and self-regulation.

“One thing’s for sure,” Bergeron said, “whatever we’re doing today isn’t working.”

Bessey also noted her department asked the Legislature for $25 million to implement the BMP program and received $4 million, not enough for staff to make annual visits to all the farms in the BMP program.

In the past fiscal year, she said, department representatives visited about 3,600 of the 11,000 participating farms.

“We would love to have more money,” said Chris Pettit, who was announced Wednesday morning as head of the department’s agricultural water policy office.

More: Pettit named water policy director for agriculture department

“You need more data, more budget and more staff,” Gary Goforth, a Stuart environmental engineer and former SFWMD engineer, said during a public comment session. “A hole has been dug for you all” because of budget cuts imposed during former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

3 Comments

  1. In regards to past phosphorus use, below is a recent article from Archbold Biological Station’s most recent June update (https://www.archbold-station.org/)

    The Phosphorus Legacy

    Fertilizers make modern agriculture possible on Florida’s nutrient-poor sandy soils. Today’s best management practices ensure that no more fertilizer is applied than needed. However, between the late 1940s-1980s, use of fertilizers created a phosphorus problem in our soils still affecting our water quality today. Dr. Hilary Swain, Archbold’s Executive Director, explains, “A study from 1998-2003 at Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch found pastures not fertilized with phosphorus since 1986 still had 5-7 times the amount of phosphorus in drainage ditches compared to unfertilized pastures. A US Geological Survey study showed ~85% of phosphorus leaving pastures came from past fertilizer use, and is not ‘naturally occurring’ phosphorus in the soils. The fertilizer-phosphorus still remaining in soils is known as ‘legacy phosphorus’.” There are large amounts of legacy phosphorus within the soils and waters of the Headwaters of the Everglades from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee. Many native plants evolved under low phosphorus conditions and are outcompeted by other plants, including non-natives, that can uptake excess phosphorus. In collaboration with the South Florida Water Management District, Archbold is experimenting with pumping water from Harney Pond Canal into an abandoned orange grove field at Buck Island Ranch to grow a winter forage grass for cattle. Last year, we harvested 1.5 million pounds of forage grass containing almost 3,800 pounds of phosphorus from the 180-acre field. This harvest also reduces the amount of supplementary feed we bring into the ranch. Still in the early stages of assessing the land phosphorus budget, we are learning best management practices to remove legacy phosphorus from off-site water.

  2. In regards to past phosphorus use, below is a recent article from Archbold Biological Station’s most recent June update (https://www.archbold-station.org/)

    The Phosphorus Legacy

    Instruments measure water inflows/outflows and phosphorus concentrations in water used for forage production on Buck Island Ranch.
    Fertilizers make modern agriculture possible on Florida’s nutrient-poor sandy soils. Today’s best management practices ensure that no more fertilizer is applied than needed. However, between the late 1940s-1980s, use of fertilizers created a phosphorus problem in our soils still affecting our water quality today. Dr. Hilary Swain, Archbold’s Executive Director, explains, “A study from 1998-2003 at Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch found pastures not fertilized with phosphorus since 1986 still had 5-7 times the amount of phosphorus in drainage ditches compared to unfertilized pastures. A US Geological Survey study showed ~85% of phosphorus leaving pastures came from past fertilizer use, and is not ‘naturally occurring’ phosphorus in the soils. The fertilizer-phosphorus still remaining in soils is known as ‘legacy phosphorus’.” There are large amounts of legacy phosphorus within the soils and waters of the Headwaters of the Everglades from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee. Many native plants evolved under low phosphorus conditions and are outcompeted by other plants, including non-natives, that can uptake excess phosphorus. In collaboration with the South Florida Water Management District, Archbold is experimenting with pumping water from Harney Pond Canal into an abandoned orange grove field at Buck Island Ranch to grow a winter forage grass for cattle. Last year, we harvested 1.5 million pounds of forage grass containing almost 3,800 pounds of phosphorus from the 180-acre field. This harvest also reduces the amount of supplementary feed we bring into the ranch. Still in the early stages of assessing the land phosphorus budget, we are learning best management practices to remove legacy phosphorus from off-site water.

  3. I find it a bit disingenuous that you quote a “Big Developer” from south Florida that rides around in the largest Humvee that I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

    UF/IFAS is doing extensive research (as you well know) in Live Oak and elsewhere to measure BMP effectiveness. Non-point is, well… non-point, so there is not a location to measure.

    In regards to nutrients entering Lake Okeechobee from the north, the VAST majority is latent phosphorus and from natural sources that were disturbed and exacerbated when the U.S. Army Corps decided to make the Kissimmee River a 60 foot deep canal that shortened the river from 103 miles to 56 miles in the 1960’s.

    RESTORATION TAKES TIME…

    I’d love to talk with Our Santa Fe about this some more.

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