We have been attending the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) meetings in Gainesville for the last couple of years. These “Action Plans” are mandated by Florida Statute in compliance with the federal 1972 Clean Water Act, and the purpose is intended to be to protect our water from pollution among other factors. The procedures by which the Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials operate in dealing with this enormous responsibility require intense scrutiny.
From what we can decipher from talking with former Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) administrators, the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) for the Orange Creek Basin, which includes, Newnans Lake, Lake Wauberg, Lake Lochloosa, and Orange Lake, has been short-changed by FDEP Officials …again. A year ago, after the BMAP had been in place its first 5 years, FDEP came to Gainesville to revisit and improve the BMAP as prescribed by Florida Law for all water bodies.
In the deliberations, we noticed and pointed out statutory mandates that weren’t being followed in the deliberations. Specifically, funding, milestones, new and improved methods and projects were mandated in the statute and weren’t being expedited. We also noticed the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a statutory requirement that limits nutrient pollutants in “impaired” water bodies (which all of the water bodies in the Orange Creek Basin are), was missing for the 5 year duration of the original BMAP. At first, FDEP administrators blamed “poor modelling”. After a lot of pressure, the FDEP officials finally promised us a TMDL for Lake Lochloosa by June of this year. They transferred the “Modelling” responsibility to the St. Johns River Water Management District some 6 months ago and then announced last week (June 22nd) that TMDLs for 5 lakes (Marshall, Robert, Denham, Weir, and Lochloosa) will be done together. Total-N and total-P values will be determined for all 5 lakes. Rule notice is to be published by August 15, 2015.
This is just another example of how the state government agencies use the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) to evade and avoid the intent of the law (The federal Clean Water Act of 1972). Required N and P reductions for Newnans, Orange, and Lochloosa range from 31% to 74%. Orange Lake has a TMDL for P but not for N. One administrator suggested that for Orange/Lochloosa/Newnans, they might focus on phosphorus reductions only, possibly ignoring nitrogen reductions. Her theory seemed to be that much of the nitrogen problem is due to recycling within the lakes, and that reducing P might serve to reduce N-fixation (and N-recycling) by organisms in the lake. This approach is not necessarily stupid. For instance, their charts (to be posted soon at: publicfiles.dep.state.fl.us/DEAR/BMAP/OrangeCreek) show that 72 percent of the N in Newnans comes from internal recycling. When asked whether there are examples in FL of TMDLs that focus only on P as a strategy to reduce both P and N. She cited Lake Jessup, but that’s a lake that doesn’t have a TMDL for N. The DEP people present couldn’t cite an example where this P-strategy has been used successfully in a lake that has both N and P values for TMDLs.
There was a brief discussion of how to deal with lakes where internal recycling is the major source of nutrients. Possible solutions mentioned were treatment wetlands and alum treatment. The former method is apparently used in Lake Apopka.
There was also discussion around the idea that cutting external inputs (e.g. agricultural inputs, which appear to be the sacred calves of the FDEP and Governor) could reduce internal recycling.
It is difficult to remain calm under such circumstance, and refrain from criticizing the procedure. FDEP seems to be a long way from having any strategy for actually reducing nutrients in our lakes, and certainly a long way from assigning nutrient reductions to specific polluters..It is our belief that Agricultural operations cannot be assigned a specific reduction – if a farm is “complying” with what the Florida Department of Agriculture calls, “Best Management Practices” (BMPs), we believe it is deemed to be in compliance with any and all TMDLs.
The administrators have promised to discuss the “projects” (or lack thereof) after being questioned on the subject which is supposed to be listed in the 2014 BMAP “update”. Unfortunately, the Office of Central Budget annual report is to be completed by August, including a list of ongoing and proposed “projects”.These meetings are normally 90% government employees of some sort, either from the municipalities in the area or from the state agencies in the area. Projects are supposed to be proposed by these entities in this process. It should be interesting to see the final outcome under the ultimate direction of this “environmental” Governor.