In a July 14 letter sent to the Florida congressional delegation, a large group of industry and agricultural representatives say that a set of water pollution standards are not the solution for algal blooms and fish kills plaguing many parts of Florida.
The letter is a response to one penned by the Florida Water Coalition, who implored lawmakers to adopt a set of numeric nutrient criteria in an effort to fight Florida’s water pollution, which many say costs Floridians in the long run. In an email dated July 7, the Coalition (which includes Earthjustice attorney David Guest) said that the failure to implement the criteria would be “a clear dereliction of duty,” as excess nutrients impose a threat to public health.
In its response, members from Florida’s top agricultural and industry organizations, as well as Associated Industries of Florida, a top lobbying firm, wrote their own letter. They argue that the EPA’s proposed numeric nutrient criteria do not offer a “proper solution” to periodic algae blooms, like those along the Caloosahatchee River, which are making headlines.
In their letter, agencies like the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and Florida Citrus Mutual argue that the algae bloom was brought on by a drought, which meant that lake water (from Okeechobee) could not be released to the river, which created stagnant conditions, ripe for algae growth.
As recently reported by The Florida Independent, water was indeed released to the Caloosahatchee — one inch. Meanwhile, the Everglades Agricultural Area (which is home to U.S. Sugar) received approximately 15 inches. The algal blooms that came about as a result have since hurt businesses (and real estate) that rely on a clean Caloosahatchee to survive.
Read the letter, in its entirey:
Last week, you received a letter from the Florida Water Coalition, signed by David Guest, requesting your support for EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria rulemaking in Florida.
The letter pointed to a recent algal bloom in the Caloosahatchee River to justify EPA’s rulemaking. While Mr. Guest is correct that the periodic algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee are a problem, he is simply wrong in suggesting that EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria rulemaking is the proper solution. Mr. Guest omits two essential facts that lead to a very different conclusion.
First, Mr. Guest’s letter omitted the widely reported reason for the algae bloom in the Caloosahatchee River. The algae bloom was a result of the lack of freshwater flow to the Caloosahatchee River due to the historic drought in South Florida. Baseflow deliveries of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River are made when necessary to keep the estuary within its salinity envelope if water is available in the lake to make these deliveries. The conditions under which those releases are made are defined in the lake regulation schedule and operational protocols utilized by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers. Unfortunately, due to severe drought conditions, lake water was unavailable to be released to the river, and the river became stagnant, giving rise to ideal conditions for algae blooms. As a result of the recent rainfall and local runoff, the stagnant water has begun to be flushed from the river.
Unsurprisingly, water quality is improving. These verifiable facts were omitted in Mr. Guest’s letter.
Second, Mr. Guest’s letter failed to mention that the Caloosahatchee River already has an EPA-approved numeric nutrient pollution limit. The state of Florida adopted this site-specific numeric nutrient total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Caloosahatchee River estuary in August 2009. See FDEP Rule 62-304.800(2), FAC. The state law requires a 22.8 percent reduction in nitrogen loads to Tidal Caloosahatchee estuary downstream of the S-79 Franklin Lock and sets a numeric nutrient limit of 9,086,094 pounds of Total Nitrogen per year. On Sept. 30, 2009, EPA agreed that achievement of this nutrient TMDL would protect the river from imbalances of flora and fauna. The state of Florida is implementing this TMDL in part through the comprehensive Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program, which was established by the Florida Legislature in 2007. See § 373.4549, FS.
The undersigned organizations appreciate the efforts of the Florida congressional delegation to decipher facts from scare tactics as the delegation engages the EPA in this unprecedented federal rulemaking. We are confident that as the full story of Florida’s nutrient water-quality-control programs continue to unfold, it will become increasingly apparent that EPA’s flawed numeric nutrient criteria rules are not needed, and the state of Florida is best situated to manage its own waters.
Associated Industries of Florida
Association of Florida Community Development
Farm Credit of Northwest Florida
Farm Credit of Central Florida
Farm Credit of Florida
Florida Beverage Association
Florida Cattlemen’s Association
Florida Chamber of Commerce
Florida Citrus Mutual
Florida Crystals Corp.
Florida Electric Cooperatives Association
Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group Inc.
Environmental Committee (FCG EC)
Florida Engineering Society
Florida Farm Bureau Federation
Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association
Florida Forestry Association
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
Florida Gulf Coast Building & Construction Trades Council
Florida Home Builders Association
Florida Land Council
Florida League of Cities
Florida Nursery, Grower & Landscape Association
Florida Pest Management Association
Florida Pulp & Paper Association
Florida Rural Water Association
Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council
Florida Water Quality Coalition Inc.
Floridians for Industry, Jobs and Growth
Gulf Citrus Growers Association
PCS Phosphate, White Springs
South Walton Utility Co.
Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative
The Fertilizer Institute
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union – UFCW Local 1625