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Dr. Burt Eno, president of Rainbow River

Conservation testifies. Photo by John Moran

THE "BMAP" LAWSUIT
Challenging DEP's Springs Cleanup Plans

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is required by law to write plans to address Springs Pollution, called BMAPs.

The plans they produced were destined to fail, so we took them to court.

BMAPs - what are they?

  • When a body of water is impaired by pollution, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection must create a plan to address the pollution. These plans are called "Basin Management Action Plans," or BMAPs.

  • Thirty springs were identified by the 2016 Springs and Aquifer Protection Act as "Outstanding Florida Springs" (OFS.) If any of those thirty springs are impaired by pollution, they must by law have a BMAP that will achieve water quality goals within 20 years.

  • Twenty-four of the thirty OFS are considered to be impaired by pollution and must therefore have a BMAP.

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When the BMAPs for polluted springs were published by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in 2018, we saw several problems:

 

1. In many cases, they would achieve only a small fraction, sometimes less than a quarter, of the nitrogen reduction necessary to meet water quality standards, not the full amount required by law.

 

2. The plans also freeze Florida's population at 2017 levels, addressing the nutrient pollution that existed in 2017, with no plans for the increases in pollution loads as our population and development grow.

 

3. They failed to meaningfully address pollution from agriculture, which is the largest pollution source to Florida springs, contributing about 80% of nutrient pollution to springs state-wide.

The plans were legally and scientifically faulty according to our legal and scientific experts and partners.  These plans were not going to get anywhere close to restoring Florida's springs.

BMAPs are in place for 20 years before being reconsidered, so the Florida Springs Council and our member groups were forced to make a tough decision: do we allow the plans to be put into place, and accept increased springs pollution for the next 20 years at least, or do we band together to challenge the FDEP in court?

 

There's only one right answer here. We joined forces with member groups including Ichetucknee Alliance, Our Santa Fe River, Rainbow River Conservation, Save the Manatee Club, Sierra Club, and Silver Springs Alliance and filed a legal challenge against DEP to write new plans. 

In November of 2019 we spent two weeks in arguing this case.

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Where are we now? 2022

It took nearly TWO YEARS (yes, that was incredibly out of the ordinary, most cases take a matter of months at most) after the end of the hearing to get a ruling, which was not in our favor. The judge’s final order did not address whether the state’s Basin Action Management Plans would succeed, but focused instead on if the plans “complied with the applicable statutory framework and legislative intent.”

 

In other words, the judge ruled that the state’s only requirement was to provide the plans, regardless of whether or not they would work.

We appealed that decision, and oral arguments in the First District Court of Appeal took place on Tuesday June 14 2022. You can read the entire appeal HERE. We do not yet have a final ruling.

 

Of note is that this case made the list of ten "Cases of Public Interest," a list of high-profile court cases where the outcome would have far-reaching effects. (Our other case against the "Nestle" water bottling permit also made the list.)

DIVE DEEPER:
Learn more about the Florida Springs Council's efforts to force DEP to write better springs pollution cleanup plans.