Tag Archives: Department of Environmental Protection

Monitoring not Modeling! Meeting Governor DeSantis’ January 10, 2020 Deadline for Updating BMAPs

Executive Order 19-12 “What can we do to achieve more now for Florida’s Environment?”

Sometimes all the bureaucracy of water management makes it difficult to understand how things work. Today, I am going to summarize the goals and requirements of Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 19-12 Section 1, C. in hopes of giving some simple insight into the responsibility of our state agencies to publicly come together to achieve the Governor’s goal; there are only six months remaining.

https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/EO-19-12-.pdf

On January 10th, 2019, just days after being sworn into office, Governor DeSantis put forth Executive Order 19-12. This order has multiple components, but today, we will focus on Section 1, C:

It states: “Update and secure all restoration plans, within one year, for waterbodies impacting Soth Florida communities, including Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee, and the St Lucie Estuaries. These updates will ensure the Blue-Green Algae Task Force has the necessary information to provide guidance to the Department of Environmental Protection on maximizing the investments in water quality improvements. 

Blue-Green Algae Task Force: https://floridadep.gov/Blue-GreenAlgaeTaskForce

So in plain language what does this mean?

This means that the Basin Management Actions Plans, the system the state uses to try to improve water quality through lessening phosphorus and or nitrogen runoff have to be “updated” by January 10, 2020.

Prior to the Governor’s Executive Order 19-12, there was no unified update date, nor a clear deadline date. Why? Because state statute doesn’t give one. How come? Because over the years special interest has lobbied our state legislature to make it this way. Governor DeSantis’ order complicates this by giving a hard deadline to find out how these BMAPS are working or not working.

An update is an “update on the status of  implementation at the end of the first phase and  an opportunity to provide recommendations for future phases of the BMAP.”

The three Basin Management Actions Plans that need to be updated include the Okeechobee BMAP; the St Lucie BMAP and the Caloosahatchee BMAP.

Below are maps of these BMAPS; and you can read about the evolution of each one separately by looking it up alphabetically here: https://floridadep.gov/dear/water-quality-restoration/content/basin-management-action-plans-bmaps

The agencies that oversee this process are the Department of Environmental Protection (regulation of water quality standards); the Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services (BMPs or Best Management Practices); and the South Florida Water Management District (water quantity or “projects)

You will see as you read about these BMAPS they are more of a soft than hard science. These maps were developed to meet a “total maximum daily load” reduction of phosphorus and or nitrogen, overtime – like 20 or 30 years!

To do this, basins and stakeholders are identified, and best management practices for agriculture and other stakeholders are implemented. Then the Dept of Environmental Protection models how much the best management practice will help remove phosphorus and or nitrogen and a certain amount of credit is given for using the Best Management Practice.

It’s kind of like giving a grade based on participation instead of performance. It’s time to raise the bar. In order for the Blue-Green Algae Task Force to have the necessary information to provide guidance to the Department of Environmental Protection on maximizing the investments in water quality improvements,” we must truly know the numbers.

~Monitoring not Modeling!

P.S. Why are the three BMAPs together in the executive order? Lake O is discharged into the St Lucie River and Caloosahatchee so for them to meet their goals, Lake Okeechobee has to meet its goals. For now, we are all connected.

 

 

A Closer Look at DeSantis’ Executive Order 19-12: “Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment”

On January 10th, Florida’s Office of the Governor, under very newly elected Ron DeSantis, issued Executive Order 19-12. The title of this order is “Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment.” It is a remarkable and voluminous piece.

Today, I am going to share it in full as you may have only heard about parts of it in the newspaper.

*For entire Executive Order 19-12 link here; you may wish to print out for your files: https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/EO-19-12-.pdf

Here we go–

First, note the “Whereases…” giving background and laying foundation for the order.

Whereas, water and natural resources are the foundation of Florida’s communities, economy and way of life; and

Whereas, protection of water resources is one of the most critical issues facing our state and requires immediate action; and

Whereas, recent algae blooms have resulted in an increasing threat to our environment and fragile ecosystems, including our rivers, beaches, and wildlife, as well as causing the issuance of health advisories, closures of recreational areas and economy losses in adjacent communities; and

Whereas, as the Governor of the State of Florida, a primary mission of my tenure is to follow in words of President Theodore Roosevelt by having Florida treat its “natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value”;

Now, Therefore, I Ron DeSantis, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section (1) (a) of the Florida Constitution, and all other applicable laws, do hereby issue the following Executive Order, to take immediate effect:

The order is five pages long, with three sections:

Section 1: Focus on Rapid Improvement of Water Quality, Quality, and Supply (A-O) 15 parts directed to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); the Department of Health; Visit Florida; and the Department of  Economic  Opportunity.

Section 2: Restructuring, to Focus on Accountability, Transparently, and Science  to Achieve More Now for Florida’s Environment (A-C) 3 parts directed only to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

Section 3: Ensure Florida’s Valuable and Vulnerable Coastlines and Natural Resources are Protected (A-B) 2 parts, again,  directed only to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

There are a total of 20 parts to the executive order. Note state’s organizational chart: DEP’s place is as an executive agency under the governor, Executive Branch. Water Management Districts are under the governor but fall in the “local government” section as the Water Management Districts have the power to levy taxes within their districts,  but are appointed by the Governor.

Please peruse entire executive order below. Read at least first line or underlined and know that it is not one, but all of these “declarations within the declaration” that will empower government structure, if steered by true captains, to abate water woes for all Springs, Estuaries, Rivers, Lakes, and the Everglades of Florida. Thank you Governor DeSantis for this map!

Governor’s website: https://www.flgov.com/2019/01/10/icymi-governor-ron-desantis-discusses-major-water-policy-reforms-in-sarasota/

Drowning in Our Own Human-Excrement-Fertilizer, SLR/IRL

Public image, human waste to biosolids-fertilizer, 2017

Today is June 1st, the beginning of the fertilizer ban in Martin County, especially Sewall’s Point that goes through November.

It was Mr Gary Roderick who worked for Martin County that first taught me about Biosolids, or “fertilizer” made from all of our human waste. It was Gary who taught me about the business of spreading this on the lands, the state basically paying farmers to do so, and how no matter how hard we all worked, no matter a reservoir and water sent south or not, the truth of the matter is that  we just keep over-nutrifying and polluting the land and thus our waters  just as fast as we can try to fix them.

On Sunday , May 27th, 2017 TCPalm ran an article by Lucas Daprile, part of an outstanding series they are doing on this issues. The article begins: “The state plans to allow a massive farm (Sunbreak Farms) on the St Lucie/Indian River County line to annually fertilize its cornfields with 80,000 tons of compost comprised of one-fourth treated human waste.”

Chances are the Department of Environmental Protection will approve this because “it’s safe”…as they have for decades.

This waste-made-fertilizer should be shipped and sold to areas outside of the state that do not have the nutrient issues we do in here Florida –not spread in watersheds that drain into Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon.

Drowning in our human excrement? You’ve got to be kidding me.

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St Lucie County Commission Meeting on this issue “Sunbreak Farm’s Permit”

6pm, June 6th, 2017, 23000 Virginia Ave, 3rd Floor, Ft Pierce, Florida

 

Useful links/and some articles where Gary Roderick is quoted:

Nutrient Pollution in waterways: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutrient_pollution

http://digital.ecomagazine.com/publication/?i=327714#{“issue_id”:327714,”view”:”contentsBrowser”} – September 2016 – Just scroll down to the Toxic Algae article…..

http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/2016/05/20/sludge-also-sickening-lagoon/83874988/

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article95442427.html

http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/02/07/biosolids-pollute-florida-watersheds/97443714/

……Latest TCPalm series:

http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/04/26/bill-gates-foundation-backs-janicki-bioenergy/99452498/

http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/04/26/human-waste-dumped-near-florida-springs-video/99166202/

http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/04/26/biosolids-disposal-solutions/99744306/

References to understand biosolid production and distribution and effects on water and the environment:

http://www.synagro.com

https://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/biosolids.html

https://fwrj.com/techarticles/0611%20tech4.pdf

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss634

https://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/docs/BiosolidsFlorida-2013-Summary.pdf

“Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the United States generate approximately
7 million dry tons of biosolids each year. Since biosolids are rich in plant nutrients, farmers, landscapers, and homeowners use about 50 percent of the annual production of biosolids as fertilizer for plants. Biosolids must meet standards for nutrient, metal, and pathogen content before it can be used to fertilize plants and to improve the quality of soil. Because a variety of pharmaceuticals and other household chemicals have been found in the wastewater discharged from WWTPs, questions have been raised about the presence of these chemicals in biosolids. To help answer the questions the scientists purchased or obtained nine different commercially or publicly available biosolids and analyzed them for 87 organic chemicals found in cleaners, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and other products.” USGS

Toxic Algae bloom washes up along the shoreline, St Lucie River, Riverside Drive, Stuart, Florida. (Photo Jenny Flaugh, 7-13)

Previous blog on this subject:https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/biosolid-distribution-south-florida/

Lake Event 2016, “Worse than a Third World Country,” May-SLR/IRL

Front page Stuart News 5-27-16
Front page Stuart News 5-27-16 by Tyler Treadway.
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Today I have posted pictures from the front page of the Stuart News, and I am also providing Dr Gary Goforth’s “Lake Event Update” for May 2016. This report gives an update on nutrient, sediment, and polluting fresh water loads into the St Lucie Estuary from Lake  Okeechobee.  Numbers from Lake O are at/or close to “Lost Summer “2013 levels now.

Today, the ACOE reports Lake Okeechobee at 14.38 feet – a very high level going into hurricane/rainy season beginning June 1st.

(http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml )

Thus the Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, with the knowledge of other state agencies and entities such as the Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Legislature, and the Governor will be opening the flood gates to begin releasing more water from the lake today.

Cyanobacteria of toxic levels (as determined by the World Health Organization) is now reported in the lake and canals leading to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This is a fresh water bloom and as the estuary becomes more fresh from lake releases the bloom will be able to survive throughout the river and estuary.  I do not understand how this is legal in spite of the safety issues of the dike. The federal government in cooperation with our state government is knowingly releasing toxic algae into our waterways –Worse than a third world country.

Jacqui

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CONDITIONS REPORT, DR GARY GOFORTH

SLR/IRL conditions report, Dr Gary Goforth 5-26-16 http://garygoforth.net
With poor water quality conditions in the Lake, the nutrient and sediment loads to the River/Estuary have already exceeded the 2013 Lake event. Feeding the bloom …

Since January 30, 2016:
Nitrogen – more than 1.6 million pounds
Phosphorus – more than 190,000 pounds
Sediment – more than 34 million pounds

Average flow – more than a billion gallons per day …

 

(Please click on slides to enlarge.)

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The Tides of Change, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Flooding on South Sewall's Point 7-17-15 after storm event. This water has receded and returned many times since this date. Not as high but too high for comfort. (Photo JTL)
Flooding on South Sewall’s Point and Riverview Rd. where I live.  On 7-17-15 after a major storm event, super moon and high tides the water was very high. This water has never completely receded. Over the past years the high waters and high tides seem to be occurring more frequently. Not just  every 50 or 100 year flood. (Photo JTL)
South Sewall's Point
South Sewall’s Point JTL 2014.
Aerial public image.
Aerial public image.

 

River water from the IRL coming up through the grates...
River water from the IRL and groundwater coming up through the grates…

The “tides of change” are coming to Martin County. In some places they are already here. As a member of the Florida League of Cites, over the past years I have met officials from counties south of ours in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe who have formal and open departments within their governments to plan for and deal with sea level rise or “nuisance flooding.” It doesn’t matter what you call it, or what caused it, when it’s happening in your city.  You just want it gone…

We in Martin County, we talk about rising tides, but not really. It is something for those people “down there….”

I think we need to bring the conversation up here.

(http://www.southeastfloridaclimatecompact.org/who-we-are/)

I live in Sewall’s Point, a peninsula in Martin County, surrounded by the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I have lived here since 1974. After graduating from college I left but did return years later to the beautiful peninsula to marry and buy a house with my husband in 2005. Ed, my husband,  lived on South Sewall’s Point Road prior to our marriage, my parents still live here, as does my sister, so I have witnessed and heard about many water/weather events over the years in our fair town.

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I have noticed that since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, even though she did not hit here, the waters in my area of Sewall’s Point seem to be consistently higher. Yes super moons, full moons, high tides, rains certainly have a lot to do with these events, but do they have everything to do with it? Certain hurricanes are documented to cause changes to flooding etc indefinitely—as out in the ocean things have shifted. We may not see the shift, but things have changed and it affects us on land…(http://www.livescience.com/24380-hurricane-sandy-status-data.html)

I don’t know, I am just speculating as I see a changes. It’s hard not to wonder when you see see water on the street almost every day…For the past four years our street has flooded consistently for long periods of time. Even with an outfall fixed there are issues. This time our road has been under various levels of water on and off for a couple of months, before the rain event as well. I have been documenting this in photos and emails for our town and for my neighbors.

The first photo in this blog is flood water from a rain event. The rest is river water. Yes river water that has come up through the grates and up through the ground into our neighborhood.

At first I was driving through the water when it was low…then my husband made me hose off the bottom of my car. Not fun. Since then I have gone one block over to Pineapple….So every day I drive one block over to exit my street.

The past couple of days it seems the water is receding, but if you look closely, you can still see it “high” right under the grate. Vegetation in the area will be and is already dying from the salt water. What will happen to the road?

Yes we that live here know where the flood zones are and cannot feign ignorance, nonetheless, this cannot be ignored..My advice? We must start a conversation with the Department of Environmental Protection and all local governments. We must face reality because she is knocking, right at our front door!

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This is an excellent article from the Florida Keys shared with me on the subject:

Flooding advice: Learn to cope
BY Charlotte Twine Free Press Staff

KEY LARGO — Residents of Twin Lakes, withstanding 14 days of floods as of press time, have a nickname for their bayside neighborhood, according to Narelle Prew, who has lived on Adams Drive for 20 years.

“We call it Little Venice. On the street, it becomes a canal,” she said.

Twin Lakes isn’t the only Key Largo neighborhood that is currently flooded during the recent spate of higher-than-normal tides.

Emilie Stewart lives on North Blackwell Lane in Stillwright Point. “The water came 7 feet into my driveway. And Sexton Way and Stillwright Way are both totally under, and Center Lane,” she said.

On the 13th day of flooding, Emilie Stewart posted on Facebook a photo of her street completely underwater with the words, “The flood waters are rising!!!! Cannot believe this!”

Some residents are making their frustration public. Frank Garces, who lives in the Twin Lakes neighborhood and bought his house in May, has created a Facebook page called Key Largo Community Swamp.

In the “About” section, it says, “This page is to promote awareness about the long-time, ongoing flooding problem on Shaw Drive, Crane St. and Adams Drive.” Garces has posted many photos showing the conditions he and his neighbors have been living in.

“At the worst, it was over 15 inches,” Garces told the Free Press. “The water is finally starting to recede. I still have to drive through 5 inches of water. It floods when it rains, but that doesn’t concern me — it goes away in two days. This saltwater issue is more of a problem. It turns our street into a canal.”

In Twin Lakes and Stillwright Point, garbage and mail service has been continuous. But residents worry particularly about the damage that the saltwater is doing to their cars.

“People in my neighborhood are driving through the water, and I’m saying, ‘Oh my God,’” Stewart said. “I’m choosing to keep my cars parked. I walk to Winn-Dixie with a backpack for necessities.”

But for people who have to drive to work, the matter is more complicated than simply footing it to the local store. Garces and his wife, Stephanie Russo, have no choice but to drive through the saltwater in front of their home.

“I’ve got a big Ram diesel truck that can do it,” Garces said. “My wife has a two-door coupe that can’t do it. We rented her a truck from Enterprise to use to drive through the water.”

But driving your car through saltwater, which makes most mechanics cringe at the thought, isn’t the only problem from the flooding.

“The mosquitoes are out of control,” said Garces. “The wake from UPS trucks knocks over garbage cans, and garbage floats down the street. I don’t pay taxes to drive my car through canals and put up with stink and mosquitoes and garbage. That’s not right.”

Prew agrees.

“Our whole neighborhood is actually sinking, we were built on a marsh,” she said. “It shouldn’t have been allowed to be built the way it was. The county approved the neighborhood to be built, and the county should maintain it.”

The Free Press asked Monroe County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy to respond to Prew’s comments.

“This is true, it’s an old neighborhood. Yes, we did,” said Murphy, referring to the fact that the county approved the neighborhood. “At least one of the roads in there is a private road, the rest are county.”

Murphy, however, said solutions to the problem are limited.

“We’re surrounded by saltwater. Saltwater is what’s coming up in the street. There is nowhere for the saltwater to go, which is why it’s on the streets,” she said. “The county is not going to pump out the saltwater because there is nowhere to pump it to.”

Taking the high road

But residents question whether the county could raise the roads to prevent the flooding.

“The concern here is that the roads are low,” Garces said.

“Raising the roads would costs millions and millions of dollars,” Murphy said. “And to raise the road blocks water. Where would the water go? The water has to go somewhere, and that’s for the engineers to figure out. Just because you block it doesn’t mean it’s going to sit in the bay. It’s going to come on the land somewhere. And then those people are jeopardized.”

Judith Clarke, engineering director for Monroe County, said permitting and environmental changes present challenges.

“Unfortunately, potential physical modifications that may be made are not simple,” she told the Free Press. “Street grates allow water to drain by gravity, but with sea level rise, the water elevation is above the road and water comes up through some structures rather than draining into them.

“Construction on roads that are directly adjacent to the open water is subject to permitting through South Florida Water Management District and, depending on the proposed course of action, potentially the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

For now, the county appears to be in studying mode.

“The county has embarked on the climate change adaptation study to develop a strategy to address climate change impacts in the county, a part of which is developing a strategy and criteria to adapt county roadways,” Clarke said.

Not a simple process

Rhonda Haag, sustainability director for Monroe County, said the county has been conducting modeling of several areas of the county for the past 18 months to determine what can be expected for saltwater inundation into neighborhoods, to identify potential road segments at risk of sea level rise, and to review the various infrastructure of the county and utilities. This effort is wrapping up in the next two months.

“It does not address how to address the flooding issues, only what are the flooding issues,” she said. “When this information is presented to our commissioners, there will be recommendations for how to proceed for the next steps. It is not a simple process.”

So why is the water lingering so long in these neighborhoods — 14 days as of press time?

“This was an event where the moon, autumnal equinox and weather all converged at one time to create an extremely high tide,” Haag said. “It’s not often the autumnal equinox falls at the same time as a full moon, but this year it did. The moon was also at its perigee, or the closest point to the Earth for the year. Experts were anticipating a somewhat higher tide due to these conditions. However, the storms and hurricane last week also contributed to the issue by driving strong westerly winds into Key Largo, thereby stacking up the water. Instead of the tidal waters receding with the tide, the westerly winds kept pushing the water in. Therefore, when the next high tide arrived, it stacked on the existing water that hadn’t fully receded.”

But some residents of the impacted neighborhoods say flooding there has been getting worse, rare confluence of circumstances or not.

“This time is probably the worst we’ve ever seen it. I don’t recall having this problem 20 years ago. I notice it more now. The last 10 years have been bad,” Prew said.

Haag didn’t dispute that perception.

“The general level of the sea is rising, so this will contribute to more tidal flooding, called ‘nuisance flooding,’ in the future,” said Haag, who added that Key Largo residents have been calling her to complain about flooding.

Clarke said county staff has received calls about flooding from residents in all parts of the county.

On the radar

Island of Key Largo Federation of Homeowners Association President Dottie Moses, who lives in the bayside Sunset Waterways neighborhood, said the concerns about flooding are on her group’s radar. She said the federation is also in a fact-finding phase.

“In the county there is an effort to raise the 35-foot height limit of homes in order to raise the base flood elevation of homes. We are still exploring the situation,” she said. “Traditionally, the federation is against raising the height limit. With the sea level rise, it has become a bigger discussion.

“I haven’t had the chance to ask homeowners how things are going since this incident. I know how things are going on Facebook and in my immediate neighborhood. We’ll be having a general membership meeting [Wednesday, Oct. 14], and I’ll ask how things are going.”

Garces just wants a solution.

“In no way, shape or form, I’m not slamming anyone in particular,” he said. “Rhonda met with us — she drove her car through saltwater to meet with my wife at our house. Judith called my wife. I just want them to come up with a solution for us.”

And, as he noted on day 14, “Water is getting deeper again today.”

For now, Haag recommended that residents help the county’s research.

“Please take photos of the high tidal waters, and email them to me, identifying the date taken and street,” she said. Her email is Haag-Rhonda@MonroeCounty-FL.Gov<mailto:Haag-Rhonda@MonroeCounty-FL.Gov>. “The county is assembling a database of photos of tidal flooding areas that will help us to identify problem areas and therefore plan for the future on how to respond to these areas.”

And as for what flood-area residents should do with their cars, Haag said, “This would be up to each resident.”

Meanwhile, if Murphy were one of those residents, she said, “What I would do is I would park my car on high ground, I would put on a pair of boat shoes, and I would walk home through the water. I sure would not drive my car through the saltwater. I would take off my high heel shoes, put on my boat shoes and get down to it.

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Hurricanes are known to cause “shifts:” (http://www.hurricanescience.org/society/impacts/stormsurge/)

South Florida Climate Compact: (http://www.southeastfloridaclimatecompact.org/who-we-are/)

Pesticide Contamination in the Region of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

 

Muck from the SLR/IRL region. Public photo.
Muck from the SLR/IRL region. Muck holds pesticides and other chemical residue. Public photo.

When I got up this morning, I saw a Facebook post by Delta Gamma sorority sister, Katie Schwader. Katie, who runs a page entitled “Love Your Neighbor,” had posted: “As September wraps up, I encourage all to join the Support Peyton McCaughey Facebook page. ” (https://www.facebook.com/PeytonRecovery?fref=ts)

Most of us are familiar with the tragic story…

Peyton McCaughey…the 10-year-old Martin County, Palm City boy who lost 90 percent of his motor skills after exposure to chemicals and pesticides used to fumigate his family’s home for termites. (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/family-alleges-pest-fumigation-left-boy-severely-injured/story?id=33539389)

According to TC Palm reporter Paul Ivice: “...the three-bedroom house was fumigated for termites by Terminix in August 2014, but the termites returned. “Under the direction of Terminix, the home was re-tented and fumigated” on Aug. 14 by Sunland…Zythor was used..Sunland didn’t use the proper dosage…and “didn’t properly ventilate what was pumped into the home to kill the termites…”

Now this 10 year old child is “not able to walk, or even lift his own head,” according to Ed Gribben Jr., the brother of mother and Martin County Hight School assistant principal, Lori Ann McCaughey. 

Is there any greater nightmare than this? I cannot imagine…We all must support this family.

Family photo of Peyton Mc Caughey as shared on the Facebook page for his families' fundraiser.
Family photo of Peyton Mc Caughey as shared on the Facebook page for his families’ fundraiser.

Fundraiser this weekend: (https://www.facebook.com/events/563020633835889/)

 

Ten Mile Creek sits in a passive operating state.
An altered Ten Mile Creek watershed… (JTL 2014)

Chemicals and pesticides are very dangerous. And many of them are lurking in our river…

Image from USGA DEP report, 2003.
Image from USGA DEP report SLR pesticide contamination, 2003.
Cover of USGS/DEP Report
Cover of USGS/DEP Report, 2003.

High levels of pesticides also exist in areas of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and many of us are not even aware of this. Most of the chemicals end up in the sediment or “muck” at the bottom of the river, so even if issues of contamination are addressed, the river bottom remains poisonous.

The following is an excerpt from a the “Water Resources Investigations Report Occurrence and Distribution of Pesticides in the St Lucie River Watershed” prepared by A.C. Lietz, of the US Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in 2003. I wonder how much has changed in just over ten years? I could not find a follow-up report.

An excerpt reads:

“The St. Lucie River watershed is a valuable estuarine eco- system and resource in south- central Florida. The watershed has undergone extensive changes over the last century because of anthropogenic activities. These activities have resulted in a complex urban and agricultural drainage network that facilitates the transport of contaminants, including pesticides, to the primary canals and then to the estuary. Historical data indicate that aquatic life criteria for selected pesticides have been exceeded. To address this concern, a reconnaissance was conducted to assess the occurrence and distribution of selected pesticides within the
St. Lucie River watershed.” –A.C. Lietz, USGA, 2003

Full report: (http://fl.water.usgs.gov/PDF_files/wri02_4304_lietz.pdf)

If you take a look at this write-up, you will see the pesticide contamination and locations  listed, and the “BMPs,” Best Management Practices, recommended to correct the situation. These pesticides have killed and distorted many fish and other species that used to live at the bottom of this area of the river. As the river bottom remains full of chemicals and grasses can’t grow, many animals and fish never came back. Some that remain have been reported sick and malformed.

The second publication we should all be familiar with is the 1995 DEP report “Pesticide Contamination in 10 Mile Creek” by Gregory A. Graves and Douglas G. Stone. This report is about the agricultural contamination of Ten Mile Creek, the headwaters of the north fork of the St Lucie River, in St Lucie County—- this creek runs south into Martin County. Believe it or not, the North Fork of the St Lucie River is  a state designated “aquatic preserve.”

An aquatic preserve! Sometimes things just don’t make sense, do they?

Conclusion from report:

” Fourteen separate pesticides were detected in the water and sediment of Ten Mile Creek, several at concentrations exceeding applicable water quality standards. Some of these concentrations appear to be the highest found anywhere in Florida surface waters (Storet). ….The true scope of the adverse impact upon the resident biota may be underestimated due to unobserved events. Ten Mile Creek is classified by the State of Florida as Class III waters. As such, these waters are presumed suitable for “recreation, propagation. (FAC 62-302.530). The contamination and resultant biological impairment documented constitutes a loss of Class III function for Ten Mile Creek waters.”

The full report is here:
(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/tenmile_creek.pdf)

 

How was the situation resolved? The report states:

“Several State of Florida biological and chemical water quality standards were violated. Recommendations include application of best management practices (BMP), review of pesticide use within the basin, regional water management and expanded study of the implications of pesticides entering the North Fork St .Lucie River OFW. (Outstanding Florida Waters). A cooperative panel including local agricultural concerns is recommended to resolve this situation with minimal conflict.”

That’s nice they resolved this terrible situation with “minimal conflict,”but I do hope the situation has been resolved; I would like to get my hands on a follow-up report that is easy to access on-line…

 

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)

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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.

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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