Q&A Of The Day – Part 1 Who’s Responsible For Florida’s Polluted Waterways?
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Today’s entry: Who’s responsible for what when it comes to our waterways? It seems like no one takes responsibility for the failures which now include record manatee deaths and for all the talk of changes nothing does. Also, how come no news media calls out Nikki Fried on these issues?
Bottom Line: The short answer is...it’s complicated (except the explanation for why Fried gets a pass). That’s why meaningful change is hard. Literally every level of government plays a role. The federal government oversees federal waterways like the intracoastal and the ocean beyond state boundaries. The federal government also plays a key role in infrastructure and related decisions like discharges from Lake Okeechobee – as it’s The Army Corps of Engineers that have oversight. The state government plays several roles with multiple departments and agencies within them. Municipalities also can impact waterways based on decisions they make regarding wastewater, infrastructure, water supplies, etc. First, let’s focus on the state departments that directly impact Florida's waterways and what their role is.
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection: DEP protects and monitors water quality, sets restoration goals for surface waters and oversees restoration activities. DEP implements state laws providing for the protection of the quality of Florida’s drinking water, ground water, rivers, lakes, estuaries and wetlands; reclamation of mined lands; and the preservation of the state’s beach and dune systems. DEP also assists local governments and other entities by providing funding for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater projects. DEP oversees water management districts as they implement water supply and water quality protection programs.
- Florida Department of Agriculture: The FDACS Office of Agricultural Water Policy is involved in the development and implementation of best management practices (BMPs); agricultural water quality and water supply policy and planning; administration of cost-share programs; BMP research and demonstration; providing mobile irrigation lab services; and providing data and technical assistance to producers, stakeholders and state agencies.
The easiest way to think about it is that Florida’s Department of Agriculture is responsible for the agriculture industry’s water policy but also plays a leading role in providing studies and best practices for the state. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s primary function is to carry out the policy decided by the state along with taking the lead on restoration efforts. As Congressman Brian Mast has said numerous times over the years, as he’s battled to end the Lake O’ discharges, it’s a daily battle to keep everyone moving in the same direction at the same time which is needed for change. In the second part of today’s Q&A I’ll explain where issues stand and have gone off the rails.
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