On November 19, 2015 at the Seminole County UF-IFAS Extension Services Office Auditorium, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) presented the public and local stakeholders with its draft third annual report on the Lakes Harney and Monroe and Middle St. Johns River BMAP.
The FDEP identified Lakes Harney and Monroe and the MSJR Basin as impaired by nutrients and low dissolved oxygen (DO). In December 2009, the FDEP adopted Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) or total phosphorus (TP) and total nitrogen (TN) for the lakes and river segments, and the Smith Canal TMDL was adopted in September 2009 for TP. The “Lake Harney, Lake Monroe, St. Johns River and Smith Canal BMAP” was adopted by Secretarial order in August 2012. The BMAP is a regulatory document that describes how the FDEP and individual stakeholders within the BMAP watershed will reduce nutrient loads to the system in the hopes that those reductions will ameliorate the impairment. The BMAP efforts are in their third year, and this report documents the progress to date,
Not all BMAPs are structured the same. This BMAP addresses 50% of the allocated reductions over a 5-year period. Following that period, stakeholders are supposed to evaluate their progress and make adjustments, as needed, to meet the TMDLs. A second BMAP iteration will be developed to address the reductions required during the second 5-year period. The required reductions from the land contained within the BMAP watershed for this iteration are 43,828.2 lbs/yr of TN and 8,854.9 lbs/yr of TP.
This BMAP does not address reduction of nutrients from in-lake legacy loads, or loadings from groundwater inputs. However, the allocated loadings are just a small fraction of the total loading to these waterbodies. Approximately 96.4% of the TN and 95% of the TP is from the upstream waters of the Upper St. Johns River, Econlockhatchee River, and Lake Jesup. So, the restoration of this watershed is intimately tied to the restoration efforts underway in those hydrologically connected watersheds or basins.
According to the FDEP’s representative, stakeholder activities in the third year removed an additional 8,252 lbs/yr of TN and 1,539 lbs/yr of TP. Much of new reductions in this reporting period came from agricultural Best Management Practice (BMP) enrollment. This brings the total nutrient reduction to approximately 81,287 lbs/yr of TN and 18,377 lbs/yr of TP, and is 93%% of the required TN reduction and 112% of the total required TP reduction for the entire BMAP period. However, many of the claims are from perceived reductions calculated from indirect measurements. For instance, the stakeholders are given reduction credit for activities like education, outreach and street sweeping. While these are meaningful steps and most likely do have an effect, the reductions from these activities and others like BMPs are only estimates based on standard calculations.
The real measurement of success will be from improvements in the nutrient and DO concentrations in the water, and the appropriate biological response. According to the FDEP’s representative, “We have not yet seen improvements in water quality that we’d like to see.” Because this BMAP is only in its third year, it will likely take several more years before that needle starts to move in a positive direction. It may be a little early in the process to determine success even though the numbers look favorable, and some stakeholders have not met their individual allocation requirements even though the total reductions are close to being met.
According to a slideshow presented by the SJRWMD, upstream projects seem to have a short-term effect on limiting TP export during dry periods, and Lake Jesup is going to need some in-lake projects to fix because it has a pronounced negative effect on downstream water quality. There is only one station in the MSJR with a decreasing chlorophyll-a trend and four are increasing. The remaining stations have stable trends, but many are still impaired.
A scientist from the Seminole Lake Management Program demonstrated that the latest Lake Vegetation Index was 43 or “healthy” for Lake Harney, but creeping water primrose was becoming a problem here and throughout the basin. Lake Monroe’s score was 23 or “impaired.” It had instances of several exotic plant species including water lettuce, water hyacinth and primrose willow that are out-competing native aquatic vegetation. Hydrilla is a a problem in both lakes too. Lake Jesup’s LVI was 43 or “healthy” in 2014 which is somewhat of an anomaly given its hypereutrophic status.
There was no discussion of cost.