Case Studies

Science-Policy Connections

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Policy and rules governing watersheds and bays are not always based on good science, and it often takes years for new science to lead to policy and rule changes. Scientific understanding is nuanced with uncertainty. Decision-makers are slow to change policy if science is contested and uncertain. In local bays and watersheds, there are examples of policy based on good science and difficult policy shifts that arose from new scientific understanding. There are also local examples of policy that lags behind good science and friction between coastal policy implementation and the special interests of groups of residents, land owners, and business interests.

In the best situations, scientists and science institutions act as trusted referees by presenting options and clarifying risks associated with those options. Sometimes scientists can have their own policy preferences and frame options and risk analyses that favor those preferences. At the same time, policymakers sometimes lack the political support or financial resources to implement science-based policy.

Over the past 40 years, improved wastewater treatment has yielded big improvements in bay quality and public health. The current challenge is improving stormwater infrastructure to meet community expectations. The Celery Field stormwater facility is a successful model. It takes passion to embark on a different approach to managing stormwater, and it will take patience to achieve results.

Projects to create and recreate living shorelines face regulatory and permitting obstacles. Some projects are experimental and the science documenting their ecological values is still developing. Meanwhile, living shoreline projects are subject to the same permitting costs as shoreline development projects. Instead there should be incentives for creating the types of living shorelines that have demonstrated habitat quality improvement. Permits should be streamlined, and incentives should be provided for private owners to replace seawalls with living shorelines (possibly property tax relief).

Laws protecting mangroves have been on the books since the 1970’s, but mangroves have not recovered. The ecological values and functions of mangroves are well-established, but a culture of mangrove trimming allowed by Florida Statutes continues to reduce those values and functions and thwart mangrove recovery. Local targets for mangrove recovery should be established, with incentives provided to seek alternatives to mangrove hedging and encourage mangrove recovery.

Roundtable Panel Discussion



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