Conservation Report September 2016

By Whitey Markle

If you are concerned about the management of your state parks, especially after the last legislative session, you can scrutinize the plans online. Bear in mind:

  • Each park has its own plan which is compiled by a relatively democratic process involving parks management personnel and you, the citizen.
  • All approved plans are published online and you can request to be part of the input process.
  • Each park plan must be reviewed and updated every 10 years, so the park(s) plan you may be interested in will not necessarily be at the same stage in the planning and review process.
  • Google look up your park of interest and enjoy the massive script. Actually there is a table attached to each plan that is relatively easy to understand.
  • If you have questions, call the Park Manager and ask smart questions. ie: When was the Park’s Plan last updated/revised?   Please list me as an interested party and keep  me informed (if your park’s plan is up for review).

In June, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) was ready to submit the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP), the policy by which the agency actually enforces the statutes created by the legislature, to the FDEP administration for legislative approval when the Florida Springs Council and the SSJ Sierra Club Group sent a Notice of Intent (NOI) to sue the agency if the Suwannee River BMAP were submitted as it existed, citing many deficiencies in the proposed massive document which would have been the official policy for the next 5 year period.  The “Water Bills” that passed the Florida legislature in 2016 added new requirements for the regulatory agencies, so it appeared that they (the state agencies) may have been attempting to submit the BMAP without these additional requirements.
Dr. Bob Knight, Dr. Bob Palmer (SSJ member), Attorney John Thomas, Esq., yours truly, and Heather Hobara, Esq. met with 4 upper level officials from the Florida Department of Environmental protection at the Suwannee River Water Management District office in Live Oak on August 8th.

Our goal was to “help FDEP develop a BMAP that tracks section 403.067, Fl. Statutes, and insures timely compliance with the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Nitrogen (N) in the middle and lower Suwannee River and its feeder springs.”  (In order to eventually decrease the amount of N that is being deposited every day in the water of the BMAP area).

The specific recommendation made to the delegation were:

  • Milestones: The BMAP 5/10/15 year milestones must demonstrate full TMDL compliance within 20 years. We suggest a 5 year milestone+ 25% of necessary N load reduction, 10 yr.=50% reduction, 15 yr.= 75%, and 20 yr. = 100%. To achieve these reductions, DEP should seek authority to implement mandatory enforceable limits on fertilizer use, livestock densities, and human wastewater loads.
  • Priority Focus areas: FDEP should designate Priority Focus Areas (PFAs) for each Outstanding Florida Spring in the BMAP (Troy, Lafayette Blue, Manatee, Madison Blue, Falmouth,, and Fanning/ Little Fanning. The maximum extent N contributing areas should be accurately delineated and FDEP should initiate quarterly groundwater and surface water sampling beginning as soon as possible for the PFAs.
  • NSILT to define N sources and Reductions: FDEP should use the NSILT program to define N sources and necessary load reduction to achieve the TMDL.  NSILT should be applied to each of the three basins in the BMAP, individually and combined (Northern Withlacoochee, Middle Suwannee, and Lower Suwannee).
  • Collaborate with : Agriculture: FDEP, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Agriculture(FDACS) should scientifically re-evaluate agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)effectiveness and develop Advanced BMPs). BMAP effectiveness has been described by University of Florida (Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) as not reliable in achieving the drinking water nitrate standard of 10 mg/L (29 times higher than the TMDL for the river and its contributing springs). It is recommended that Advanced BMPs are be developed and tested that consistently achieve the allowed .35mg/L in the underlying groundwater in the most vulnerable portions of the basin.
  • Enforce BMP implementation:  FDACS (with “consultation” by FDEP) must monitor and enforce actual BMP implementation. Must adequately sample ALL BMP Notices of Intent (NOIs) on a routine basis to obtain statistically valid data on how many producers are actually implementing BMPs.
  • Lobby Legislature on Fertilizer Sales: FEDP and FDACS should lobby the legislature to increase the fee on all fertilizer sales. Existing science shows TMDL compliance will not be achieved without a significant reduction in the amount of N fertilizer used in vulnerable areas of the Floridan Aquifer System. Create an Aquifer Protection Fee (APF) to discourage excessive fertilizer use and to raise funds for development and implementation of Advanced BMPs and for Agricultural Conservation Incentives (ACIs).
  • Reinstate and upgrade the reporting of all fertilizer sales in Florida.
  • Fund the 2016 Itchetucknee Alliance Advanced Conservation Incentives Program by quantitatively prioritizing the most impactful agricultural operations.
  • FDEP should complete Table 11 (BMAP Projects). To include all BMAP projects through the 20 year BMAP life. (Only 3 of 23 projects in the existing table 11 have estimated load reductions and only 11 of 23 projects have estimated costs. None explicitly state a funding source, and these 23 projects only achieve 3% of the necessary N load reduction dictated in the TMDL.
  • FDEP should complete Table 13 (Ag, Land Uses) Crops should be itemized in each f the 3 basins separately).
  • Tom Frick, FDEP water chief, lead the contingency which had read our requests prior to the meeting. FDEP replied to that:
  1. They have 2 more years to complete this BMAP  (2018). The SJRBMAP was initiated in 2013, so we say it is due now (as the statute states), not 2018 as they are saying. Since we/they put the BMAP on hold for negotiation, FDEP must have realized our intent and froze it, knowing it was not credible. It is obviously not credible.
  2. They want to use Amendment -1 (A-1) funding to build super sewer facilities, including pipes, to alleviate the South Florida pollution crisis. We say that is illegal (doesn’t meet the statutory intent).They disagree.
  3. A. They refused to suggest to their superiors (Governor and Adam Putnam Secretary of Ag.) that taxes must be levied to pay for projects other than land purchase, (maintenance, etc., as described in A-1). This was one of our requests.

B. The BMAP includes  massive projects that will use A-1 one funding to lay sewer pipes around the polluted areas of the BMAP. We requested this be funded by additional taxes (as would have been the means had A-2 not passed).  They disagreed, saying they would argue that point of law (A-1 intent).
The 4 DEP negotiators agreed to go back and negotiate our requests:

  • Land-use changes: How many acres would be required?  At what cost?
  • Account for new growth in agriculture.
  • Statement that existing BMPs won’t solve the problem.
  • Pump/treat may work in limited cases but it’s not a holistic solution.
  • Deal with the issue of farmers over-applying fertilizer beyond IFAS recommendations.
  • Work with FDACS to ensure that farmers are keeping good records on fertilizer use.
  • Improve information on milestones and on project costs.
  • Provide a schedule for NSILTs in PFAs.

This could be a landmark in the management of Florida’s waters. We are not optimistic. They have 2 months to respond to our requests.

SSJ Sierra Club, in collaboration with the Gulf Restoration Network, held an all-day workshop at the United Unitarian Fellowship in Gainesville on Saturday, August 13th. The meeting was packed and several workshops were conducted simultaneously. Advocacy, investigation, negotiation and Eminent Domain Law were subjects covered by the field of expert presenters. We felt that the workshop was very successful in preparing our activists in the North Florida/South Georgia region for future negotiations with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). No  doubt, the participants left the workshop fully prepared  to push forward with the issues surrounding the Sabal Trail (and other) pipeline.
A few days later, a yard full of pipes and equipment was spotted north of Lake City, Florida, and the FERC communicated to Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Florida Sierra Club Red Tide supervisor, that they were reviewing all of Sabal Trail’s application papers for construction of the pipeline. The time is drawing near when we will likely have to again file legal actions.

FLORIDA SPRINGS SUMMIT SET FOR SEPTEMBER 30, OCTOBER 1 & 2ND Learn How to Make Meaningful Springs Restoration a Reality
Featuring many experts in Springs Restoration including Gwen Graham.
Registration is now open for the 2016 Florida Springs Restoration Summit. Only $75 for both days. Go to WWW.SPRINSRESTORATIONSUMMIT.ORG to register.

The 2016 Springs Summit will feature a series of plenary sessions to first describe current springs science and management and then delve into the agency, advocacy, legal, media, and legislative remedies that can generate meaningful springs restoration and long-term protection.

Each speaker will provide examples of tools and activities already being implemented with positive results as well as a vision for future actions to advance restoration and protection goals.

The knowledge gained will be used to create a Springs Restoration Action Plan for Florida. The Action Plan will consolidate key points and next steps presented at the Springs Summit to support implementation. It will be available to Springs Summit attendees.

Join us in Ocala, Florida, for two days of learning and discussion, keynote lunches, an afternoon social and poster session, and a field trip afterwards to paddle the Silver River. The cost has been kept low to encourage participation by the public and nonprofit organizations.

The Florida Defenders of the Environment and the SSJ Sierra Club continue to negotiate with the US Forest Service on the issue of removal of the Rodman Dam on the Ocklawaha River. The time is ripe for dam removal. It has remained in place since the dam was deauthorized in 1990. There is NO reason for it to remain. It costs half-million dollars/year to maintain it, and it is beginning to fall apart.

The best thing each good activist can do is  to write a letter to the US Forest service and demand the removal of Rodman Dam.  Apparently negotiations are fruitless. Send letters to:

U.S. Forest Service
1400   Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C.  20250-1111

This conference will be held in St, Pete (week of Aug.15): The Florida SC Chapter in collaboration with the Center For Biological Diversity will determine strategies and statewide policies regarding Phosphate mining in Florida.  Merrillee will attend with the leaders of the Union/Bradford coalition(s). Presenters from phosphate hot spots around the state will make up the agenda. It is great to see the Florida Chapter coordinating this event.

I-75 RELIEF TASK FORCE                                                                                 Levy County BOCC- changing their position?
Levy County Commission Chair,  John Meeks, voted in the Task Force meeting in Williston in June to make additional new roads through Levy County a priority of the Task Force, contrary to a motion set forth by Charles Lee of the Florida Audubon Society that stated that the focus of the Task Force will be the rebuilding of I-75 rather than the construction of new highways to move traffic off of I-75 to the Northwest and Northeast via new highways.   However, in a Levy County Board of County Commissioners meeting that followed, 4 other commissioners voted to ordain a resolution that nullifies that vote. But it’s not over until it’s over.
The Levy County Board will probably vote on the resolution at the BOCC regular meeting on Tuesday, August 16.  We will see how Chairman Meeks fares. The recommended new route for the highway will be to widen and raise U.S. 41 from near Lecanto in Citrus County, through Dunnellon in Marion County, through Morriston, Williston, Raleigh, and up through Archer and High Springs in Alachua County.

In a surprise editorial this week, the Gainesville Sun endorsed the election of Kevin Thorpe for Alachua County Commission, saying it is time for a change in Alachua County government. We  think this endorsement is a big mistake.

Florida Springs Restoration Summit Sept. 30- Oct. 2. Central Florida College. Sponsored by the Florida Springs Institute. $75/person . We have a table space reserved on Saturday, Oct. 1 all day. Gwen Graham keynote speaker.

Ocklawaha Restoration/ Rodman Dam Removal (Dan Vasquez will report on this issue). Silver Springs Alliance will begin a major campaign  in the Fall of 2016.

Florida Chapter Phosphate Mining Committee conference in St, Pete (week of Aug.15). The Florida SC Chapter in collaboration with the Center For Biological Diversity will determine strategies and state-wide policies regarding Phosphate mining in Florida.  Merrillee will attend with the leaders of the Union/Bradford coalition(s).