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Policy staff update: Rule-making that impacts water quality



In addition to keeping close tabs on the Eden Oak zoning process and Conservation 20/20 nomination, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Policy staff has been busy focusing on several rule-making processes that will ultimately have a direct impact on local water quality:

– Lake Okeechobee water releases: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a Webinar on July 21 to present information related to the proposed planned deviation from the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) 2008 in anticipation of and following freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), to help reduce the risk of potential concerns associated with algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie, and Caloosahatchee estuaries while maintaining other project purposes. Per Jacksonville District Commander Col. Andrew Kelly: “This planned deviation is an important tool which provides flexibility to hold back releases when HABs are most prevalent in favor of releasing more water from Lake Okeechobee when conditions are more favorable.”

– Blue Green Algae Task Force: The governor-appointed Blue Green Algae Task Force met remotely on July 29 to discuss, among other issues, waterway signage and the adoption of EPA guidelines for blue-green algae cyanotoxins in Florida waters. The guidelines are intended to be adopted for new water quality standards and swim advisories. They pledged to meet in the near future with potential presentations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. SCCF has submitted comments on previous recommendations by the task force regarding Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs), Agriculture Best Management Practices (BMPs), and Wastewater and Stormwater Treatment Systems which influenced the outcome of the 2020 legislation of Senate Bill 712, the “Clean Waterways Act.” The outcome of future task force meetings is also expected to inform proposed water quality legislation for the 2021 legislative session.

– Stormwater rules: As a result of Senate Bill 712, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is undertaking a review to improve current water quality rules and regulations. One such effort by the DEP took place by Webinar on July 30 to provide an introductory rule-making presentation and outreach for the upcoming stormwater rule development by the DEP and water management districts. The presentation included background information and requested public input ahead of formally initiating rulemaking to update Florida’s stormwater design and operation regulations. SCCF will be submitting comments for proposed program improvements.