For Immediate Release: Oct. 6, 2011
FLORIDA MEETS WITH FEDERAL LEADERS, REAFFIRMS FLORIDA’S COMMITMENT TO EVERGLADES RESTORATION
~ State presents strategy to improve water quality ~
Wading birds gather in Stormwater Treatment Area 5.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Florida Governor Rick Scott, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Executive Director Melissa Meeker today met with U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Secretary of Civil Works Jo Ellen Darcy and U.S. Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno to reaffirm Florida’s long-standing commitment to restoring America’s Everglades. During a meeting of state and federal principals, Florida’s Governor outlined a strategy for improving water quality and sending cleaner water south to the vast ecosystem, while protecting jobs and the state’s economy.
“Today, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to ask our federal and state Everglades restoration partners to agree on a strategy that puts the ecosystem first and prevents costly, ongoing litigation from derailing our mutual progress toward restoration,” said Governor Scott. “A strong Florida partnership will help usher in the next generation of projects that will improve water quality in South Florida, while still protecting jobs and the state’s economy.”
Announcing a strengthened Florida partnership that focuses on the heart of the Everglades system, Governor Scott called upon the DEP and the SFWMD to work hand-in-hand to further improve the quality and quantity of water flowing into the Everglades. By focusing on implementing restoration projects on lands already in public ownership, the state is saving taxpayer dollars and minimizing the effects of government’s land acquisition efforts on local and state agricultural-based economies.
“Everglades water quality is a top priority for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” said DEP Secretary Vinyard. “We have a conceptual path forward for one of our long-standing challenges, and I am extremely optimistic that through cooperation and collaboration we will deliver measureable and permanent results.”
DEP and the SFWMD will continue to work closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify and implement projects that will treat water to ultra-low levels of phosphorus. To protect South Florida’s unique make-up of flora and fauna, DEP in 2006 established a stringent phosphorus water quality standard for the Everglades of 10 parts per billion.
“This strategy has great potential to address critical areas of the River of Grass and build on the progress we’ve made in meeting the restoration needs of Everglades National Park and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge,” said SFWMD Executive Director Meeker. “A strong partnership with DEP is invaluable as we work together toward achieving our state’s water quality goals.”
Since 1994, Florida’s network of stormwater treatment areas south of Lake Okeechobee — with a combined treatment area of 45,000 acres — have retained approximately 1,470 metric tons of phosphorus that would have otherwise entered the Everglades. Through April 2011, more than 3,800 metric tons of phosphorus have been prevented from entering the Everglades through treatment wetlands and the Best Management Practices program covering the Everglades Agricultural Area. Florida has invested more than $1.8 billion to improve the quality of water flowing into America’s Everglades. In addition, Florida has dedicated more than $2.4 billion to the 50-50 state-federal partnership to implement the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.