Fertilizer has certainly been a hot topic over the past few years and for me this movement is one of the great hopes that the Indian River Lagoon has a chance of surviving.
Fertilizer ordinances, specifically those with “black out periods,” started on the west coast of Florida over a decade ago as activist around Tampa Bay and Sarasota decided to fight for their waters. They have had great success after great losses and now Tampa Bay has more sea grasses than it did before World War II, due mostly to its BE FLORIDAN program that the National Estuary Program is now trying to bring to the IRL. (http://www.befloridian.org)
Although there had been talk years ago of fertilizer ordinances on Florida’s east coast, they really didn’t catch on until the Town of Sewall’s Point adopted a “strong” fertilizer ordinance, a “black out period,” or no fertilizer use during the rainy season (June-November, for SP) in 2010. I am proud to say I was a big part of that movement with the support of the Sewall’s Point Commission.
It was Commissioner, to be Mayor, Jeffery Krauskoph, in 2009, who gave me the idea to push for such an ordinance in the Town of Sewall’s Point. The City of Stuart had actually passed the first in the area, however; it did not have a “black out period” and the Sewall’s Point ordinance does.
Ironically, last night the City of Stuart was petitioned by fertilizer activists from Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St Lucie and Martin counties to push for a “stronger” fertilizer ordinance and Stuart in fact adopted, by first reading, the Martin County ordinance, a “strong” fertilizer ordiance.
The perils of fertilizer were first majorly documented in the research of the National Reasearch Council’s, Clean Coastal Waters, Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution, in 2000. Dr Brian LaPointe and and Dr Margaret Leinen of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute both sat on this national committee and Dr Leinen even testified before Congress. (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9812)
The book scientifically states ” the problems caused by nutrient over enrichment are significant and likely to increase as human use of inorganic fertilizers and an fossil fuels continue to intensify.” The scholarly publication notes strategies for “control” and tells the story of synthetic fertilizers created after World War II and how they transformed not only agri-business but suburbia, and how this, hand in hand, with over development, has lead to the steady demise of our beloved coastal estuaries. In many cases, such as the Gulf of Mexico, fertilizer from farms along the Mississippi River have created “dead zones.”
I am on the board of Harbor Branch’s Foundation and I once asked Dr Leinen, (who now is now the Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences and Dean of the School for Scripps Institute of Oecnograpy in California,) “if you testified before Congress on this problem, why didn’t they listen; why didn’t they do anything? ” She smiled at me and kindly and replied, “Jacqui, politics often overrides science.”
I stood there and had one of my “realizations…”
On a positive note, what I love about fertilizer ordinances the most, is that the “people” have embraced them as they realize the fertilizer problem is something they can directly and positively affect. As the public puts “skin in the game” for the direct benefit of their rivers, springs and estuaries, they expect this of their politicians as well. This is the beauty and and power of fertilizer ordinances; it is politics on its most revolutionary level, that of “the people….”
At this time, “strong” fertilizer ordinances have been adopted in the Town of Sewall’s Point; Martin County; Indian River County; St Lucie County; Orchid Island; Indian River Shores; Vero Beach; Brevard County; and are at first reading or being “worked on or discussed” in Stuart; City of Port St Lucie, Jupiter Island; Ocean Breeze; Fellslmere; Palm Shores; Melbourne Beach; Sebastian; Rockledge; Satellite Beach; New Smyrna Beach; Cocoa Beach and most likely a handful of others. Marty Baum, the Indian River Keeper, and others to be commended for taking the time to travel and advocate.
Like wildfire, communities along the Indian River Lagoon are taking into their own hands a part of the puzzle to save their lagoon. And the dolphins, manatees, seagrasses and and fish are smiling and hoping that this is just the start! As Dr Grant Gilmore said at the 2013 Harbor Branch Symposium, “it is the people, not the government, that will save the IRL.”