TALLAHASSEE – Today, after bi-partisan support in the House and the Senate, the numeric nutrient criteria bill (SB 1808) will now be presented to Governor Rick Scott for his signature. The legislation, combined with new state rules, form the foundation of a state-federal agreement that enables a focused, state-led solution to protecting Florida’s waters. The legislation is key to ending litigation and allowing the state to implement better protection of our waterways.
These actions will result in having numeric nutrient standards for 99 percent of Florida’s lakes, streams, springs, estuaries and coastal waters. Such standards have already been reviewed by the fantastic scientists at DEP and by EPA.
I applaud the leadership of Sen. Charlie Dean and Rep. Jake Raburn and the support of the Florida Legislature on this important issue. Florida has to address the problem of excess nutrients if we are to restore and protect the health of the rivers, lakes, springs and estuaries of this great state.
These measurable nutrient criteria will result in cleaner, safer water for all Floridians.
In March, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement to continue the protection of Florida’s waterways from excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. High levels of these pollutants cause algal blooms and are among the largest contributors to water quality problems in Florida. This agreement marks a significant step forward in protecting and restoring water quality across the state.
The agreement builds on momentum from November 2012, when EPA approved the state’s numeric nutrient criteria to cover all lakes, rivers, streams and springs, as well as estuaries from Clearwater Harbor to Biscayne Bay. The legislation and some Department rulemaking in 2013 set the stage to finish the job of setting numeric nutrient criteria for Florida’s waterways.
The plan calls for this legislation as well as adopting additional state rules that in combination will eliminate the need for continued dual rulemaking and secure the foundation for a single, state-led solution for the state of Florida. Currently, state and federal rules are in place for some Florida waterbodies.
The legislation requires the Department to complete its nutrient criteria rulemaking for remaining coastal and estuarine waters by Dec. 1, 2014, and establishes interim nutrient standards until then. The legislation further clarifies and puts into law requirements for nutrient conditions in all managed conveyances and canals, and makes it clear that all state criteria will go into effect when EPA has ceased nutrient rulemaking in Florida and removes the federal criteria.
In addition, the Department has adopted a clear implementation plan for the criteria so application of the new rules can occur immediately. The agreement with EPA, once implemented and completed, will be coupled with EPA’s prior approval in November of the Department’s adopted water quality standards. The result will be Florida having numeric nutrient standards for lakes, streams springs, estuaries and coastal waters, the vast majority of waterways in the state.