2015 Annual Update, St Lucie River and Estuary Basin Management Action Plan, SLR/IRL

Inside cover of the Draft 2015 SLR BMAP Report.
Inside cover of the Draft 2015 SLR BMAP Report.

I did not attend yesterday’s meeting, but I do have copy of the “2015 Progress Report for the St Lucie River and Estuary Basin Management Action Plan.” The report is in PDF format so I cannot share in this post. Here is a copy of yesterday’s agenda: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/docs/bmap/meetings/AgendaStLucie-081215pdf.pdf)

Today I will try to provide some insights for every day people trying to figure out what a basin management action plan is, why we have one, and how we are doing so far….

Before we begin, we must first note that in 2002 the state of Florida declared the St Lucie River “impaired.” Impaired as in “its health”— with too much nitrogen and phosphorus and other pollutants from fertilizer and other sources that run off agricultural and developed lands…If you want, you can read the 2002 report below.

St Lucie River, Evidence of Impairment DEP : (http://dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf)

Today we hear more about BMAPs (Basin Management Action Plans) and TMDLS (Total Maximum Daily Loads) than the original impairment report, but we must be aware that the only reason we have a BMAP is because the river is “impaired.” A BMAP is  put in place by the state to “fix” impaired water bodies.

Our Martin County/St Lucie St Lucie River (SLR) impairment  is compounded by the fact that the watershed has been heavily altered over the past 100 years. The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee blocks the natural flow of Lake O. water going south to the Everglades; therefore the “overflow” waters of Lake Okeechobee are released into the St Lucie.

On top of that are canals C-23, C-24, C-25 that go way out west expanding the St Lucie River’s basin, draining parts of Okeechobee and St Lucie counties and even waters of the St John’s River that used to go north once located near Vero! Road runoff, marinas, agriculture, our yards, tributaries, non-functioning septic tanks, and other things all add up to create a pollution cocktail encouraging toxic algae blooms that kill seagrasses and wildlife and lower our property values for the entire area.

According to the St Lucie River Initiative our canals expanded the “flow” into the St Lucie River by as much as five times what Nature intended. See map below. The BMAP doesn’t really deal with this problem; it does not try to reroute these canals, it  rather tries to “better the situation” we are in now as far as water inputs.

Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original watershed. Yellow and pink have been added since ca.1920. (St Lucie River Initiative's Report to Congress 1994.)
Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original watershed. Yellow and pink have been added since ca.1920. (St Lucie River Initiative’s Report to Congress 1994.)

So with that in mind, let’s get back to the state of Florida’s created Basin Management Action Plans implementing “total maximum daily loads” (TMDLs) for nitrogen and phosphorus. “Everyone” is part of lowering their loads to the river through building projects that help lower loads and implementing Best Management Practices for fertilizer etc…. Everyone in the basin that is. (Not Lake O- They have their own plan). Not everyone is an equal polluter but everyone tries to lower their load.

The stakeholders agreeing to do projects and implement Best Management Practices to lower their inputs are:

Agriculture

City of Fort Pierce

City of Port St. Lucie

City of Stuart

FDOT District

Hobe St. Lucie Conservancy District

Martin County

North St. Lucie River Water Control District (NSLRWCD) 10

Pal Mar WCD

St. Lucie County

Town of Sewall’s Point

Troup-Indiantown WCD

These stakeholders work together with the help of DEP, the Department of Environmental Protection, and others to lower their measured inputs of Nitrogen and Phosphorus into the river over a period of fifteen years, in five-year increments beginning in 2013. The draft report now is just reviewing the first two years of the first five years. We have a long way to go….

This slide of the summary  report provides some overall insights. You can see the load originally compared to now and how far they have to go together to achieve the first increment.

DEP chart for SLR BMAP. (Draft 2015)
DEP chart for SLR BMAP. (Draft 2015)

1.1    Summary of Accomplishments

Table 3 summarizes the projects completed during the second annual BMAP reporting period. These resulted in an estimated reduction of 118,163.3 lbs/yr of TN and 26,998.8 lbs/yr of TP. The reductions are in addition to those projects given credit before BMAP adoption. Therefore, the total reductions to date are 595,952.0 lbs/yr of TN and 157,540.8 lbs/yr of TP, which are greater than the required reductions in the first BMAP iteration of 316,024.2 lbs/yr of TN and 121,250 lbs/yr of TP. These reductions, in addition to those shown as completed in the BMAP, are 56.6% of the required TN reductions and 39.0% of the required TP reductions of the Phase I BMAP.

The progress towards the TMDL TN and TP load reductions in the St. Lucie River and Estuary Basin are shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3, respectively. The first bar in these figures shows the baseline load for stormwater runoff. The second bar shows the current estimated loading with the implementation of projects. The third bar shows the total allocation for stormwater runoff to meet the TMDLs. The line shows the target for the first BMAP iteration. (DRAFT REPORT)

____________________________________

So the St Lucie River BMAP is making “pretty good” progress according to the report. I imagine there is  still a lot to improve. It is a process. We are learning….

These programs are definitely a major “participatory decision-making process”  to be commended. I cannot imagine what it takes to coordinate this effort! It would be a nightmare actually. I rather just reroute the canals!

In closing we must note the Indian River Lagoon of which the St Lucie River is a tributary, has a BMAP, but it is for the central and northern lagoon not the southern lagoon where we are in Martin County. I don’t quite understand this. The river does not seem healthy in this area either.

Maybe one day soon the southern IRL will soon have its own BMAP too? A very complex process for two very sick rivers…A process we should all try to understand and help with too.(DEP BMAPS http://www.dep.state.fl.us/Water/watersheds/bmap.htm)

Florida BMAPs DEP.
Florida BMAPs DEP.
Close up
Close up
List of Florida's impaired water bodies and BMAPS.
List of Florida’s impaired water bodies and BMAPS.

*According to the Department of Environmental Protection: a BMAP is a “blueprint” for restoring impaired waters by reducing pollutant loadings to meet the allowable loadings established in a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). It represents a comprehensive set of strategies–permit limits on wastewater facilities, urban and agricultural best management practices, conservation programs, financial assistance and revenue generating activities, etc.–designed to implement the pollutant reductions established by the TMDL. These broad-based plans are developed with local stakeholders–they rely on local input and local commitment–and they are adopted by Secretarial Order to be enforceable.

*Also for the first five years of the fifteen years the BMAP will take place, the stakeholders are getting extra credit because their SLR BMAP” credit includes storm water management strategies and projects that have been put in place since 2000 or will be implemented during the first five years of implementation June 2013-June 2018).”

SLR SFWMD (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20protecting%20and%20restoring/stlucie#data)

*Thank you to former commissioner Tom Baush of Sewall’s Point who shared this report with me.

_____________________________________________________

I am adding a comment from Dr Gary Goforth to this blog post at 1:00 PM 8-13-15. I think his professional insights are helpful even to the lay person; he did attend the BMAP meeting yesterday; and he is a regular contributor to my blog. Thank you Gary. (http://garygoforth.net)

3-18-15 at 7:17 AM Gary Goforth commented on 2015 Annual Update, St Lucie River and Estuary Basin Management Action Plan, SLR/IRL

Inside cover of the Draft 2015 SLR BMAP Report. I …

Hi Jacqui

I am very familiar with the TMDLs and BMAP for the St. Lucie River Basin. I attended the BMAP progress meeting yesterday along with Mark Perry and others. There were nice updates by Diane Hughes and her counterpart in St Lucie County on construction and operation of what should be good, effective projects for reducing nutrient loads to the St. Lucie River and Estuary. It is clear that local communities and others are working hard to reduce nutrient loading.

However that’s where the good news ended.

While the progress report leads the public to believe that great strides have been made by landowners in cleaning up their stormwater pollution, unfortunately the BMAP process and progress reporting is seriously flawed and present an overly optimistic assessment of the region’s water quality, and the progress made towards achieving the desired endpoint. I expressed this opinion to FDEP, FDACS and SFWMD staff at the meeting yesterday, with the following support:

1. The nutrient loading data in the progress report are not real (measured data), rather they are a combination of potential load reduction estimates superimposed on simulated data. No where in the progress report will you find the observed amount of nitrogen or phosphorus that actually entered the St. Lucie River and Estuary during 2015. As was discussed at the meeting, FDEP does not plan to bring real data into the progress reports until 2017.

a. The real data show a very different story, for example, phosphorus loading from the C-44 Basin (excluding Lake releases) has increased more than 50% from the 1996-2005 Base Period.

b. Until real data are shown, there can be no assessment of how well the BMAP program is working, and no mid-stream corrections will be made.

c. The majority of load reductions are attributed to agricultural land uses as a result of BMPs. However, FDACS and FDEP staff acknowledged that they have not yet documented the actual effectiveness of any ag BMP in the region – they repeatedly stated they were short on staff.

2. The progress report (and the BMAP) ignores the nutrient and sediment load from Lake Okeechobee discharges. In the 2015 reporting period, the assessment ignores over 400,000 pounds of nitrogen and 47,000 pounds of phosphorus that entered the River and Estuary from the Lake. And don’t expect future reports to reflect this loading – the BMAP process will continue to ignore loading from Lake Okeechobee, assuming instead that the Lake will achieve its own TMDL (another sad subject altogether).

3. The nutrient loads for the BMAP base period are not the actual loads that occurred in each of the basins – instead it is a simulated load that differs up to 25 percent from the observed load. Without an accurate base period load, true progress cannot be assessed.

I could go on for a while; I made many more suggestions how to improve the process and will follow up with written comments to the FDEP.

Gary

9 thoughts on “2015 Annual Update, St Lucie River and Estuary Basin Management Action Plan, SLR/IRL

  1. Hi Jacqui

    I am very familiar with the TMDLs and BMAP for the St. Lucie River Basin. I attended the BMAP progress meeting yesterday along with Mark Perry and others. There were nice updates by Diane Hughes and her counterpart in St Lucie County on construction and operation of what should be good, effective projects for reducing nutrient loads to the St. Lucie River and Estuary. It is clear that local communities and others are working hard to reduce nutrient loading.

    However that’s where the good news ended.

    While the progress report leads the public to believe that great strides have been made by landowners in cleaning up their stormwater pollution, unfortunately the BMAP process and progress reporting is seriously flawed and present an overly optimistic assessment of the region’s water quality, and the progress made towards achieving the desired endpoint. I expressed this opinion to FDEP, FDACS and SFWMD staff at the meeting yesterday, with the following support:

    1. The nutrient loading data in the progress report are not real (measured data), rather they are a combination of potential load reduction estimates superimposed on simulated data. No where in the progress report will you find the observed amount of nitrogen or phosphorus that actually entered the St. Lucie River and Estuary during 2015. As was discussed at the meeting, FDEP does not plan to bring real data into the progress reports until 2017.

    a. The real data show a very different story, for example, phosphorus loading from the C-44 Basin (excluding Lake releases) has increased more than 50% from the 1996-2005 Base Period.

    b. Until real data are shown, there can be no assessment of how well the BMAP program is working, and no mid-stream corrections will be made.

    c. The majority of load reductions are attributed to agricultural land uses as a result of BMPs. However, FDACS and FDEP staff acknowledged that they have not yet documented the actual effectiveness of any ag BMP in the region – they repeatedly stated they were short on staff.

    2. The progress report (and the BMAP) ignores the nutrient and sediment load from Lake Okeechobee discharges. In the 2015 reporting period, the assessment ignores over 400,000 pounds of nitrogen and 47,000 pounds of phosphorus that entered the River and Estuary from the Lake. And don’t expect future reports to reflect this loading – the BMAP process will continue to ignore loading from Lake Okeechobee, assuming instead that the Lake will achieve its own TMDL (another sad subject altogether).

    3. The nutrient loads for the BMAP base period are not the actual loads that occurred in each of the basins – instead it is a simulated load that differs up to 25 percent from the observed load. Without an accurate base period load, true progress cannot be assessed.

    I could go on for a while; I made many more suggestions how to improve the process and will follow up with written comments to the FDEP.

    Gary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Gary for the comprehensive input to my blog post. I have added your comment to the blog itself to help people. I appreciate so much the time you take to advocate and to help us learn how to interpret science for the SLR/IRL.

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  2. A while back I was at the commercial fishing museam on the south side of Sebastion STATE park. The documentary on the video had one of the fishing familys that pretty much controlled the industry. He said the lagoon is like a chain and the fisherman understands the consiquences of what will happen if one of the links in the chain are broken. The calcium is one link.Phosporus another link.Nutriants another link. Remove just one link and the chain is broken. The results are DEATH for the lagoon. I have been trying to estimate the size of just one indian mittin I know of. I think it is about the equivalent of a football field 8 foot deep in shells. Most Mittens were hauled off to pave roads. I hope people check out what I am saying for themselves. It takes a lot of phosphorus and nutriants for tens of thousands of acres of sea grass to grow. Stop removeing the links in the chain and put the calcium back and I am certain the lagoon will come back fast and stronger than ever

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As I was coming into Turkey Creek I saw someone was building a swimming pool in their back yard. You could see it was shells they were digging into. I think people built there houses on top of a lot of mittins. It is no wonder the lagoon is dead. When the commercial gillnetters were going at it the runoff from the calcium roads must have been what keept the lagoon alive. All these roads are now sloped so the calcium will NOT run in the canals. Fixing the lagoon will be easy and in a few years I believe it could be made a National treasure giving new meaning to the treasure coast

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read another quote from former president Ronald Reagan . He said government can be described in just 3 phraises—– If it moves Tax it—-If it is still moveing regulate it—–If it has stopped moveing subsidise it. I would like to add to this concerning our sick lagoon—-If it is still alive KILL IT but make everyone think you are trying to save it

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  5. If asked which is worse lieing or murder everybody would for sure say murder is far worse —lieing is not even a crime. A few years ago I would have felt the same. but now I am not so sure

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  6. Adding this. May be of interest. Came in an email, Nice.Hello all,

    The meeting summary and presentations can be found here: http://publicfiles.dep.state.fl.us/DEAR/BMAP/StLucie/Meetings/2015/August%2012%202015/

    The Second Annual Update Draft Report can be found here: http://publicfiles.dep.state.fl.us/DEAR/BMAP/StLucie/Draft%20Annual%20Report_Year%202/

    Please submit comments and questions by or before September 12, 2015.

    I would like to thank all of you who attended the meeting earlier this month. Please let me know if you have any questions.

    David Glassner
    DEAR – BMAP Coordinator
    Florida Department of Environmental Protection
    850-245-8343
    david.glassner@dep.state.fl.us

    Like

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