Director’s Note from Dave Tomasko: Honing in on the basis for recent trends…
Over the past two or so years, we have been informing you that we were seeing signs of improvement in the bay’s water quality and ecosystem health. We have discussed our findings with our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) and Management and Policy Boards. In fact, each of these Director’s Notes is sent to our TAC and CAC, so that if our interpretation of results is viewed as problematic, we expect folks to speak up. Rest assured, we have plenty of smart and engaged people on both committees who would not hesitate to point out an error in our logic (which is good). And while we may not have unanimity in acceptance of our conclusions, we certainly have a consensus.
Last fall, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) informed us that their own independent analysis of water quality concluded that recent improvements were sufficient – both in terms of the magnitude of the change and the duration of the improvements – that none of the open water portions of Sarasota Bay were considered to be out of compliance with their established water quality standards for nutrients. This is a big change from prior years, as a review of data ending in 2020 concluded that nutrient impairment existed for the entire stretch of the bay from Ringling Boulevard down to Venice Inlet.
The question is, “how did this happen?" Well, our review of rainfall and pollutant loads – as a whole – did not find that rainfall was driving this trend. Yes, it was VERY dry in 2023. But improvements sufficient to bring about the de-listing by FDEP occurred based on data collected before 2023.
As a third-party review, we used one of our consultants to verify (or not) the conclusion about the improvements in water quality, and to try and help us figure out how this happened.