Statement From DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. Regarding EPA Action Today On Numeric Nutrient Criteria

TALLAHASSEE – “Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the DEP’s numeric nutrient criteria for numerous estuaries of Florida including those in the Panhandle, Big Bend and Springs Coast. This brings to 100 percent the Florida estuaries with protective state nutrient standards in place.

“Florida has now fulfilled its obligations under the path forward agreement reached with EPA in March 2013, eliminating the need for continued dual federal and state rulemaking and securing the foundation for a Florida-led solution to nutrient pollution in the state. Not only are the state’s rules the most comprehensive standards in the nation, no other state has even come close to adopting complete nutrient standards that cover 100 percent of lakes, rivers, streams, springs, and now 100 percent of its estuaries, as Florida has.

“The Department appreciates EPA’s actions today. They mark a significant step forward in protecting and restoring water quality across Florida and serve as another example of how the environment wins when science and good public policy are chosen over costly litigation.”

Approval Letter and Decision Document

Background:

On March 15, 2013, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement to continue to protect Florida’s waterways from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Fulfillment of the agreement, coupled with the previous state and federal actions summarized below, will result in Florida having numeric nutrient standards for more than 99% of its lakes, streams springs, estuaries and coastal waters.

In November 2012, EPA approved Florida’s numeric nutrient criteria for lakes, rivers, streams and springs, and the estuaries from Clearwater Harbor to Biscayne Bay, including the Florida Keys. The Department had earlier adopted these criteria, which were approved by Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission in December 2011. Then, late last year, the ERC approved DEP’s numeric nutrient criteria for six major Panhandle estuaries: Perdido Bay, Pensacola Bay (including Escambia Bay), Choctawhatchee Bay, St. Andrew Bay, St. Joseph Bay and Apalachicola Bay.

In June 2013, the ERC approved numeric nutrient criteria for 18 estuaries along the Springs Coast, along with 448 miles of open coastal waters. These criteria cover the Loxahatchee River, Lake Worth Lagoon, Halifax River, Guana River/Tolomato River/Matanzas River, Nassau River, Suwannee River, Waccasassa River, Withlacoochee River, and Springs Coast (Crystal River to Anclote River).

State legislation called for in the path forward agreement was passed by the Legislature this session and signed into law by Governor Rick Scott in May. The legislation requires the Department to complete its nutrient criteria rulemaking for remaining estuaries and coastal waters by December 1, 2014 and sets interim nutrient standards until that time. EPA approved this numeric nutrient criteria law, which was supplemented by the Department’s August 1, 2013 report to the Governor and Florida Legislature.

Florida taxpayers have invested millions of dollars to create the nation’s most comprehensive rules controlling nutrients. These rules account for the diversity and complexity of Florida’s waters and afford local communities and private interests the tools essential to protecting rivers, lakes, estuaries, and springs for the future and restoring those waterbodies that do not currently meet standards.

For more information, visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wqssp/nutrients.

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