FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 18, 2013
DEP, LOCAL OFFICIALS CELEBRATE RESTORATION PLAN FOR ST. LUCIE RIVER AND ESTUARY
~Water quality plan moves forward with cooperation of local, regional stakeholders~
DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard joins local officials to commemorate new restoration efforts.
STUART - Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. today joined local officials in Stuart to celebrate adoption of the state’s restoration plan for the St. Lucie River and estuary. This ceremony marks another significant step as the Department continues to confront Florida’s most pressing water quality challenges -- nutrients.
“One of DEP’s top priorities is getting Florida’s water right, ensuring an adequate supply and improving water quality,” said Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “The State of Florida is a leader in water quality assessment and restoration. Protecting the St. Lucie River and estuary is a team effort of state agencies, local governments, the agricultural community, and area residents. We all contribute to the problem and we will all have to be part of the solution.”
In 2009, the Department adopted water quality restoration targets, called Total Maximum Daily Loads, to address nutrient pollution in the river and estuary. Based on comprehensive monitoring and analysis, the Department determined that reductions in nitrogen concentrations ranging from 21.4 to 51.8 percent, depending on the individual waterbody segment, and phosphorus concentration reductions ranging from 41.3 to 78.6 percent are needed to meet water quality standards and improve water quality conditions in the basin.
These reduction goals are the basis for the Department’s restoration plan for the river. The restoration plan identifies the pollutant reduction responsibilities of basin stakeholders, the projects and activities they will implement in the next five years, and monitoring plans to track resulting changes in water quality. During this first phase of the restoration plan, and accounting for local investments made in advance of formal adoption, 51 percent of the nitrogen and more than 37 percent of the phosphorus reductions required will be achieved. More than 537,000 pounds per year of nitrogen loadings and 151,000 pounds per year of phosphorus loadings will be eliminated from the St. Lucie River and Estuary Basin.
The restoration plan was developed under the Department’s comprehensive approach to identifying polluted waterways and building local partnerships to restore them. To the credit of local governments in the area, many stormwater projects have been implemented or are underway in advance of the finalization of the restoration plan. Local governments have invested nearly $230 million on projects in the basin since 2000.
“We look forward to working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and other state partners to help create a healthier St. Lucie River and Estuary through implementing the BMAP, our blueprint for implementing water quality improvement,” said Martin County District 2 Commissioner Ed Fielding.
Typically divided into five-year phases, these restoration plans provide for annual updates on project implementation and changes in water quality. Thus, the plan can be adapted to address any needed changes.
“The South Florida Water Management District is committed to the partnerships and local projects that will continue to improve the St. Lucie River and its unique estuary,” said Kevin Powers, Governing Board Vice-Chair of the South Florida Water Management District. “Water quality improvements achieved through this basin management action plan will be vital to our long-term success.”
Another $13 million is expected to be spent during the first phase of the restoration plan. Stakeholders will continue to develop and implement stormwater management improvements, agricultural best management practices, local ordinances to improve urban pollution management, and public education and outreach.
"Stuart is surrounded by the St. Lucie River. She attracted and keeps us here. From individual to institution it is our responsibility to protect and improve her quality," said Stuart City Commissioner Jeff Krauskopf.
For more information about the Department's water quality protection and restoration programs visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/bmap.htm.