FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 21, 2013
DEP HOSTS MEETING TO DISCUSS NEXT PHASE OF ST. LUCIE RIVER RESTORATION
~DEP continues restoration plans for the river basin~
Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection hosted a public
meeting before roughly 60
attendees to begin planning for the next round of projects and activities to
restore the St. Lucie River and Estuary. The meeting continues the commitment
of the Department and stakeholders to solve water quality problems in the
“Just last month we were here
to celebrate adoption of the first phase of a long-term plan to restore the St.
Lucie River and Estuary,” said Tom Frick, Program
Administrator for the Water Quality Restoration Program within DEP's Division
of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “Recent algal blooms only reinforce the
importance of the work ahead and the need to take advantage of the existing
momentum and energy at the local level.”
In 2009, the Department adopted
water quality restoration targets, called Total Maximum Daily Loads, to address
nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) pollution in the river and
estuary. Based on comprehensive monitoring and analysis during phase I of the Basin
Management Action Plan, the Department determined that reductions in
nitrogen concentrations ranging from 21.4 to 51.8 percent and phosphorus
concentration reductions ranging from 41.3 to 78.6 percent are needed to meet water
quality standards, depending on the waterbody segment.
These reduction goals are the
basis for the Department’s restoration plan. The first phase identified the
pollutant reduction responsibilities of basin stakeholders, the projects and
activities they will implement in the next five years as well as monitoring plans to
track changes in water quality.
During this first phase, 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 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. Local governments have already invested nearly
$230 million on projects in the basin since 2000 to address stormwater runoff
in particular. Additional information about investments in the region can be found here.
Wednesday’s meeting kicked off
planning for the second five years of restoration plan progress. Stakeholders discussed the
overall schedule, focusing on time frames for new project identification, design
and coordination. The Department will work closely with stakeholders to
prioritize the areas that would benefit most from new stormwater projects.
Additional water quality monitoring and modeling options for the St. Lucie restoration plan study area were also discussed.
As the longer term St. Lucie
restoration plan projects are implemented, and in response to the recent algal blooms, the
Department, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Department of Health and
South Florida Water Management District are working together to address
more immediate public health concerns in the interconnected St. Lucie River,
Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee systems. More information about those efforts can be found here.
The Department and water management district, in particular, are coordinating on
comprehensive long-term water quality improvement and water management
strategies for these waterbodies. The agencies, along with other state and
local partners, are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to balance flood
control, navigation, water supply, water quality and overall ecological health.