From Sarasota Bay Estuary Program director Dave Tomasko:
Our recent improvements in water quality across Sarasota Bay have resulted in a rather unique situation. In contrast to most of our neighboring systems, none of the open water portions of Sarasota Bay are considered “impaired” for nutrient pollution. That is not the case to our north and south, or for the Indian River Lagoon certainly, or Biscayne Bay. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), we have 50% of all the systems that have shown enough improvement in water quality to be proposed for de-listing in all of Southwest Florida. We have as many segments of Sarasota Bay on the de-list list as all the estuaries in South Florida. Basically, we are a “hot spot” for water quality improvements in the state of Florida. As such, there are no additional regulatory requirements to reduce nutrient pollution, on top of existing permit requirements for wastewater and stormwater management.
That is good news. Great news, actually.
But, as we’ve indicated before, this recovery of water quality could slip away from us in the future, if we don’t take the steps necessary to prevent that from occurring. So, what are our steps to prevent that? Well, we are proposing to pivot from the development of a Reasonable Assurance Plan, or RAP, (which is a locally led effort similar to the Total Maximum Daily Load process) to the development of a Water Quality Protection Plan (WQPP).
We will be running this proposed approach through our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) in February, and while there may be some in opposition to this, we expect that the consensus will be for us to follow this pathway. The proposed WQPP would have all the elements of a RAP, but it won’t have legally binding requirements. Why not? Because there no longer are any bay-wide water quality impairments for nutrients that need to be addressed via a regulatory process.