DEP Concludes Public Meetings Soliciting Input on Water Restoration Priorities

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently concluded a series of public meetings throughout the state to present information and receive input on the future priorities of water restoration. The Department has held six public meetings in the past month to invite public comment in Live Oak, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Pensacola, Orlando and Bartow.

At each meeting, the Department’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration staff explained the assessment and restoration cycle, presented the 2014 strategic monitoring plan as well as the preliminary 2-year work plan for establishing restoration goals.

“Each year, the Department must determine how to employ our resources most effectively to address water quality restoration,”said Tom Frick, Director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “Our programs achieve the greatest success when we have stakeholder engagement and we are committed to taking advantage of local perspectives and priorities to better inform our work plans.”

Through the public meetings the Department received a range of commentary from the Water Management Districts, city and county governments, environmental groups, and local residents and business owners.

Florida contains more than 17,000 square miles of water, of which approximately 40 percent are inland waters. Florida is third in the country for inland water area and relies on these water bodies as an economic and recreational resource. To protect and rehabilitate Florida’s water bodies, the Department facilitates a continuous cycle of assessment and restoration.

The Department is charged with collecting water quality data, through both its own monitoring programs and in collaboration with other agencies and monitoring groups. The Department assesses this data against state standards and determines which bodies of water are considered impaired. To correct these impaired waters, the agency develops and adopts scientifically-based restoration goals. These goals set limits to the amount of pollutants that may be present in a water body if the water body is to be considered healthy. In order to meet these restoration goals, the Department facilitates the development by local stakeholders of broad-based restoration plans to achieve reductions in pollutant loading.

DEP is currently finalizing its water restoration plans both in response to the commentary and through coordination with local entities that provide water quality and biological data to the agency. The final strategic monitoring plans will be placed on the Watershed Assessment Section’s pageand the final plans are posted here.

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