Recently, the Late Bloomers Garden Club hosted an event at the Cummer Museum & Gardens in Jacksonville with Nathaniel Reed. Mr. Reed is one of our nation's foremost environmental policy leaders, having served 6 governors and 2 presidents in many positions including Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior. He helped found 1000 Friends of Florida and has served or is currently serving on the boards of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Geographic Society, Yellowstone National Park, and Everglades Foundation.
You can read his entire speech by clicking here. Here is an excerpt:
"I’d like to take a final moment to address one last critical water issue that has recently been at the forefront of our state’s environmental news – the problem that excessive nutrients are still polluting hundreds of lakes, rivers and our once productive, clean estuaries. From the beginning of water quality management in Florida, we have relied on non-numeric criteria to manage run-off. I passed this standard in 1970. We knew nothing – nothing about nutrient pollution!
Our state’s water quality law says you cannot degrade a water body by the agricultural discharges. The law essentially says that you can’t degrade a water body without telling you when you’re doing so. We’ve relied upon “improvement plans” without a link to the actual needs of our various diverse natural systems. Best Management Practices (BMP’s) have proven to be a myth. They aren’t enforced and they don’t work!
Despite doing various “good deeds”, we haven’t provided true protection: more than 300 water bodies in our state have been classified as seriously in danger from unregulated discharges of phosphorus and nitrogen. That's just the beginning. Further testing will prove that there are another 200 or 300 bodies of water that are dying because of floods of nutrients. I can’t give you an exact number, but it is safe to say that MANY are…primary examples: Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie, Caloosahatchee, and St. Johns Rivers. Most of our major river systems and lakes are on the wrong side of the nutrient balance.
To its credit, the St. Johns District has spent decades developing and implementing impressive plans, and land acquisitions, to reduce inputs to the St. Johns from large farm operations, but the problems continue. The St. John District is miles and years ahead of the other WMD’s in controlling excessive nutrients entering your major water systems but there is still much to be accomplished.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency was finally forced by a brilliant Florida lawsuit to in turn force the State of Florida to face its major nutrient pollution problem. The state, as usual, has never established stringent numeric nutrient regulations as federal law requires, and after months of negotiations, EPA decided that enough was enough and announced that they would establish workable standards and enforce them.
All hell broke out. Our congressional delegation raced to the congressional appropriations committees and begged them to deny funding for EPA’s determined effort.
The Members of the Florida Legislature went bananas.
Adam Putman, our brilliant Secretary of Agriculture and a young man with a great future mobilized every Chamber of Commerce, every agricultural interest to oppose any involvement of EPA to enforce nutrient standards. It was a hysterical reaction, as EPA cannot enforce non-point standards – but under Florida law DEP can! The most commonly used phrases were: “we cannot afford to comply” which translated into common English means “we prefer dirty water versus trying to have clean water”.
The second complaint by our “leaders”was this was an example of overreach by the federal government – EPA reaching into Florida and mandating a significant action.
The polluters won. President Obama’s political advisors overruled the EPA experts and forced the Administrator of EPA to agree to a Florida plan that is clearly inadequate and will be again challenged in court, as it is still in violation of the Clean Water Act.
The charade continues. As leaders in your community, ask yourselves, is it worth paying for major improvements to the sewage systems of this city to remove nutrients and have DEP enforce nutrient standards upstream or are you satisfied by a St. John’s River that reeks on incoming tides during the warm summer months when the nutrients create a vast green algal bloom that stretches miles and can develop into a very serious human health issue?
It is an issue worth your close attention. We must insist that DEP be required to enforce state law.
We all are in shock at the jobless figures, a dysfunctional Congress, our fiscal dilemma, the incredible gap in our national budget, the loss of so many fine young men and women in two far off wars of questionable value that now cost $2 billion a week to support and the growing problem of the national debt that forecloses so many options for rebuilding America into the powerhouse that it can be.
Winston Churchill’s final address before his school where he had been beaten, bullied, failed in class work, stumbled from lack of coordination, and even developed a lisp was simple. He tottered to the podium as the school children and faculty waited breathlessly for this seminal address. They were stunned when the great man’s final speech was simply: “Don’t Give Up!” He turned to walk to his seat but paused and returned to the podium. He stared across the rows of young men who would become the leaders of Great Britain and stated firmly, “No, Never, Never give up!”
We must find men and women with courage to defy quick fixes and think about the legacy we want jointly to leave our successors.
I leave you today with the hope and expectation that the superb city and county in which you live will show the way to a better Florida.
It’s up to us, all of us to halt the determined, short-sighted attack on the state which we love. Governor, Members of the Legislature: we will not GIVE UP!"