Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Florida has an ugly problem

Florida has an ugly problem. What feeds lawns and sugar cane also fuels the scum that clogs waterways and Floridians are collectively over-feeding the scum. There are too many examples: blue-green algae smothering rivers, lakes and canals; high piles of putrid-smelling drift algae along beaches; shorelines strewn with dead fish, turtles and manatees from red tides; diminished sea grass and coral beds, fisheries and waterfowl populations in every part of the state.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) concluded in 2008 that over 1,000 miles of rivers and streams, 350,000 acres of lakes, and 900 square miles of estuaries here are impaired by nutrients – half of our rivers and more than half of our lakes are sick from high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous. And Floridians living along those water bodies are suffering too; waterfront economies, property values, drinking water supplies, human health and quality of life are negatively impacted.

Over time, our ways of life have released enough nitrogen and phosphorous into the environment to overload our water bodies. Our lakes, rivers and estuaries can no longer digest the extent of our nutrient pollution; drop by drop they have reached the tipping point and the result is the overgrowth of harmful and nuisance algae.

Unfortunately, the blame game won’t work here – we all contribute to the problem: it runs off over-fertilized and untimely-fertilized urban landscapes; it is discharged from wastewater treatment plants; it is a by-product of agriculture.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gulf Coast Recovery Plan is Out!

The White House Gulf Coast Recovery Plan was released today. The plan created by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus's commission urges Congress to:

1) dedicate a large amount of the Clean Water Act penalties to the Gulf Coast; create fund for these monies;

2) establish a Gulf Coast Recovery Council to administer the fund. Include state and federal co-chair. Council would focus on environmental restoration, economy, and public and mental health. Would work w/ NRDA trustee council to ensure coordination. EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson will head this Council.

3) dedicate a smaller percentage of CWA penalties directly to Gulf states so that they can jump start their restoration efforts immediately.

Secondary Recommendations:

--Encourage a private response effort in tandem w/ federal/state efforts

-- Make changes to Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP). Currently fund has $600M.

-- President will sign Executive Order to create a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to ensure a smooth transition from response to recovery efforts. Lisa Jackson will head the Task Force.

Comments on report: The report is available at:

Thanks to Jill Mastrototaro of Sierra Club's New Orleans office for helping to keep us all in the loop.

Phil Compton, Sierra Club FL Regional Office, St. Petersburg