Island Reporter

Denham denounces efforts to undermine water quality

 

By BILL SCHILLER (bschiller@breezenewspapers.com), Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

November 23, 2011

 

http://www.islandreporter.com/page/content.detail/id/518326/Denham-denounces-efforts-to-undermine-water-quality.html?nav=5051

 

Sanibel City Vice Mayor Mick Denham has been long recognized among other community leaders staunch in their advocacy of measures designed to maintain the ecological purity of SWFL's coastal areas and inland waterways.

He is currently leading a campaign against that he describes as an effort to "preempt local government" from the utilization and implementation of adopted policies that specifically help diminish and mitigate the environmental and economical impact associated with algae blooms (red tides) whose origins have been linked to man-made processes such as sewage disposal and nitrogen-enriched elements of fertilizer found within storm water runoff.

Denham appeared before members of the Lee County Legislative Delegation during a meeting held November 8 at Edison College. The conference typically provides opportunity to discuss issues, public hearings on local bills and funding requests for a range of initiatives.

During the meeting, Denham provided some background on water problems that had previously impacted Sanibel Island and other coastal areas of Lee County.

Accordingly, between 2003 and 2007, the algae blooms which blanketed so many of the area beaches were said to drastically impact the local tourism-based economy. In 2008, The City of Sanibel joined with Lee County to fund a study that cost $768,000. The research galvanized minds from Florida Gulf Coast University, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Nova Southeastern University, the National Coral Reef Institute, University of New Hampshire Jackson Estuarine Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

Denham noted the researchers "clearly indicate that increased nitrogen loading from storm water runoff, including fertilizer, contributed to the extensive algae blooms in our coastal waters."

The information ultimately empowered community leaders like Vice Mayor Denham and strategists from Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council to develop a system of "Best Management Practices."

With widespread support from local legislature, Denham says a strategy was approved which, at present, provides "the only tools" to protect the quality of our waters and "ensure compliance" with State-mandated regulations that, as Denham notes, will surely be enforced.

Denham informed the Delegation that the adopted policies specifically provide means to control storm water runoff, issues associated with fertilizer and septic waste removal.

Despite the support of local legislators who Denham describes as cognizant of the manner in which water quality "impacts business, tourism, property values and our entire way of life," Denham expressed concern that efforts are underway to pre-empt local government from utilizing the tools developed to correct the problem.

Denham expresses concern that legislators, on a state level, will cave to corporate influences he portrays as intent on undoing locally adopted ordinances. He encouraged the Lee Delegation to work on behalf of all residents and prevent the pre-emption of local ability to protect water quality.

While this has been a frequent issue in recent years, and legislative bills have come and gone, Denham says a current issue exists with measures that would alter a program called TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load). TMDL essentially relates to numeric criteria associated with allowable amounts of nutrients discharged in water.

Jim Beaver of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council is also expressing concern for TMDL, but more specifically House Bill 421 and Senate companion Bill (SB604). These, says Beaver, are new incarnations of corporate tactics to skirt around the rules. He is concerned that failure to follow local policies will undo what he notes have been "measurable improvements."

As with Denham, Beaver expressed disappointment that state leaders are not being more supportive for an issue so vital to the economy.

"I can't understand any state that doesn't want clean water," said Beaver, "But, that seems to be the policy of our Governor and the agencies under his direction."

Beaver says voters who care about water quality have to be especially vigilant to legislative attempts to undermine local policies, such as in the case of HB421 and SB604, which he depicts as being "disguised as an agricultural bill".

"It is getting much harder for the public to know what is going on, so you have to pay close attention," said Beaver.

Vice Mayor Denham agrees, and is continuing to ask for the public help as well as legislative support. He has sent a letter to legislators on the House Agriculture and Natural Affairs Subcommittee which is printed in its entirety below:

A VOTE FOR HB 421 IS A VOTE FOR A TAX INCREASE.

VOTE NO ON THIS PREEMPTION BILL

Over the next few years, local governments will be required increasingly to comply with State-mandated water quality programs. These include reductions in nutrient loading to local waters as part of the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) program and Numeric Nutrient Criteria. These programs are currently being implemented and will be enforced.

The ONLY tools available to local government to ensure compliance with these mandated programs. Are:

(1) Establishing the means to control Storm Water Runoff,

(2) Controlling the use of Fertilizer, and

(3) Finding the means to better manage Septic Waste Removal.

We wrote resolutions incorporating these tools that have been approved by local cities and councils, for implementation in their local areas. Preempting local government from using any of these tools would infringe on the home rule rights of local government and seriously hinder their ability to address water quality and comply with state-mandated programs.

If we do not use these tools now, "preventative maintenance" then the cost to local taxpayers when State mandated water quality programs are enforced will be huge

THESE TOOLS ENABLE US TO APPLY, "PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE" IF WE CANNOT USE THEM THE COST TO LOCAL TAXPAYERS WHEN STATE MANDATED WATER QUALITY PROGAMS ARE ENFORCED WILL BE HUGE. VOTE AGAINST THE PREEMPTION BILL

Thank You

Vice Mayor of Sanibel

Mick Denham