On Feb. 25 in Live Oak, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will kick off a series of six meetings around Florida to take public input on the Department’s water quality assessment and restoration priorities over the next two years.
“Each year, the Department must determine how to deploy its resources most effectively to advance water quality restoration,” said Tom Frick, Director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “Because our programs can’t succeed without stakeholder cooperation and action, we are committed to taking advantage of local perspectives and priorities to better inform our watershed work plans.”
To restore and protect Florida’s surface waters, the Department collects water quality data through its own monitoring programs and with the help of other agencies. The data are then analyzed to determine which rivers, lakes, streams, springs, and estuaries do not meet Florida’s water quality standards and are thus “impaired”.
For each impaired waterbody or group of related waters, the Department develops and adopts a scientifically derived restoration target, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load. Based on the target, the Department, in conjunction with local stakeholders, develops and implements a restoration plan to return the waterbody to health.
At the public meetings, key Department staff will explain the assessment and restoration process and present the Department’s proposed 2014 strategic monitoring plan. They will also present the preliminary two-year work plan for establishing TMDLs in local watersheds.
The Department will also share information on a new analytical tool, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and adopted by the state, which was used in developing the preliminary work plans. The tool accounts for multiple factors affecting restoration such as the natural characteristics of the watershed, the pollutant of concern and the severity of the pollution problem, and key social factors that may influence success. These factors were weighted and the results used to help identify what problems to tackle first. Public input on the results will be solicited at each meeting locale.
“These priority-setting meetings will help DEP and stakeholders work together up front to focus our collective water quality assessment and restoration objectives,” added Frick.
Press Release, February 24, 2014