First of all, I want to thank all of you who offered to testify to help us acheive standing in our legal challenge of the state's plan to address nutrient pollution. Your overwhelming response is sincerely appreciated.
The good news is that our opposition backed off from challenging our standing, and the hearing proceeded and has now come to an end. Our attorneys believe that we made a compelling case, and we expect to receive a decision from the judge in the next several weeks.
As you may recall, Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, and several other conservation groups filed for an administrative hearing to legally challenge the weaker nutrient pollution limits that are being proposed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
We believe the state's proposed Numeric Nutrient Criteria (NNC) will not adequately protect our waterways, including the St. Johns River, from nutrient pollution (an excess of nitrogen and phosphorous).
Background about the Numeric Nutrient Criteria (NNC) issue:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has repeatedly stated since 1998 that numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) is necessary and must be implemented by states to protect polluted waterways.
Numeric criteria is important because it establishes specific pollution limits for nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P). Too much N and P can trigger toxic algal blooms and fish kills.
In 2003, Florida submitted its first plan to develop numeric nutrient pollution limits but repeatedly pushed back deadlines for completion.
When it was clear Florida would not honor its commitment, the Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, and three other groups filed a lawsuit to ensure that these important standards would be established.
As a result, a federal judge ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to follow the Clean Water Act and get the job done.
In 2010, EPA established numeric nutrient criteria for Florida freshwater rivers, lakes, and springs, using the state's own extensive data and a scientifically-sound, widely-accepted methodology to establish the much needed standards.
Industry groups and the State of Florida appealed the decision.
In 2011, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) finally decided to introduce its own weaker criteria, in an effort to supplant the more protective standards developed by EPA.
With your ongoing support, we will continue to seek effective nutrient pollution limits that are protective of our river's health.
Critical meetings will take place over the next couple of weeks involving the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Georgia-Pacific (GP), and St. Johns Riverkeeper. Despite the fact that GP is proceeding with the construction of the pipeline, we remain committed to making sure the wastewater that is discharged by GP is clean and safe.
We are hopeful that our ongoing efforts to resolve the problems with dioxin and other pollutants will prove to be successful. We'll keep you posted.
Water Withdrawal Study
As we have previously reported, the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) recently released the St. Johns River Water Supply Impact Study (WSIS), an analysis of the potential impacts from withdrawing millions of gallons of water each day from the river.
Unfortunately, the media and the SJRWMD have focused on the benefits of the study and not its signficant shortcomings.
The peer review of the study by the National Research Council (NRC), a group of independent scientific experts, identified major limitations and recommends additional analysis before water withdrawals occur. According to the NRC, "the WSIS operated within a range of constraints that ultimately imposed both limitations and uncertainties on the study's overall conclusions."
This study does not provide a green light for massive withdrawals from our river.
Water conservation and the reuse of reclaimed water continue to be the most responsible and cost-effective strategies for meeting our long-term water supply needs and protecting our water resources.
Click hereto read a my letter published in several newspapers regarding our position on this important issue.
Click here to learn more about the study and its limitations on our website.
Save Silver Springs
If you have not done so already, please submit comments opposing the proposed cattle operation in Marion County and help protect Silver Springs and the Silver River.
Adena Springs Ranch has submitted a consumptive use permit (CUP) application to withdraw 13.267 million gallons of water a day (mg/d) from the aquifer.
This is more water than the 12.85 mg/d used by the entrie City of Ocala. Adena Springs Ranch would use the water to irrigate pasture land for 30,000 head of cattle and a slaughterhouse.
The proposed cattle operation would be located within the springshed of Silver Springs and the Silver River and could cause further harm to these natural gems.
Please, visit our website to learn how you can submit comments and help save Silver Springs.
March is St. Johns River Month
Finally, this is a great time of the year to explore and celebrate the river, learn about its rich history and diverse ecology, and to take action to help protect it.
Explore:Click hereto get a copy of our Get Your Feet Wet guidebook to the parks of the river or to take a virtual tour. Then, get out there and start exploring!
Celebrate: See the sidebar for a listing of exciting upcoming events.
Protect: Visit our website to take the River Friendly Pledgeand learn how you can reduce your impact on the St. Johns.
By continuing to work together to make our voices heard, we can protect and restore the mighty St. Johns River.