Dr. Burt Eno, president of Rainbow River
Conservation testifies. Photo by John Moran
UNDERSTANDING 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 in 2018 were destined to fail, so we took them to court with petitioners Save the Manatee Club, Sierra Club, Ichetucknee Alliance, Our Santa Fe River, Silver Springs Alliance, and several individuals.
This case took place over two weeks in November of 2019,
and the court ruled in our favor in February of 2023.
But DEP's failure to comply with the court's order means this fight for
Florida's springs continues, turning into a five-year-long ordeal for clean springs.
UPDATE Oct 11, 2023 - DEP knowingly fails to follow proper legal procedures, FSC files Motion for Enforcement
On Monday October 9th the Florida Springs Council filed a Motion for Enforcement in the 1st District Court of Appeals.
As you may remember, the judge ruled in our favor on this case in February 2023.
DEP has failed to comply with the 1st DCA order.
So FSC and the petitioners in the case filed a Motion for Enforcement with the 1st District Court of Appeals to see our previous victory through.
DEP knowingly failed to follow proper legal procedures, after refusing to comply with the court's order. DEP is determined to protect polluters, and FSC and our partner organizations who care about Florida's waterways are equally determined hold them accountable and force them to uphold the laws in place to protect our springs.
So We Keep Fighting:
“Going to court is always our last resort. Unfortunately, that’s where Florida’s springs are after years of neglect and ineptitude by DEP.
Our only choices are to keep fighting or accept that Florida’s springs will never be healthier than they are today. For Florida Springs Council members, that is no choice at all,”
- FSC Executive Director Ryan Smart.
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. By law, those BMAPs were due to be published in 2018.
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 freeze Florida's population at 2017 levels. The pollution they did address considered only what 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 several individuals and filed a legal challenge against DEP to write new plans.
In November of 2019 we spent two weeks in court arguing this case.
Where are we now? 2023
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 agreed with DEP argument 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.
In February of 2023 the First District Court of Appeals ruled in our favor.
But DEP has refused to comply
On Friday July 21, 2023, Florida Springs Council members filed administrative petitions challenging the Basin Management Action Plans (amended with appendices that do not meet the requirements of the court ruling). It was a continuation of the four-year legal effort that we thought was resolved when the 1st District Court of Appeals ruled in our favor in March.
DEP failed to comply with the 1st DCA order, forcing us back to court.
And so the fight against our state's own Department of Environmental Protection to protect Florida's Springs continues.