Peace River Cumulative Impact Assessment

Monthly Status Update

(updated as progress is made)

March 2007

The Cumulative Impact Assessment Study was completed at the end of December 2006. A final report by the consulting firm PBS&J, Inc. was completed in late January 2007. The technical aspects of the study were presented at a series of public meetings held in the spring and summer of 2006. Beginning in July and ending in December, six stakeholder meetings comprised of representatives from municipal governments, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, and others were held throughout the basin to get feedback on the study and proposed management plan. Primary conclusions of the study are: (1) Long-term variations in rainfall have led to substantial declines in average and above average flows over the last 60 years; (2) Groundwater withdrawals have caused a loss of spring flow and base flow in the upper part of the watershed, resulting in the periodic loss of perennial flow in the river between Bartow and Homeland during low flow conditions; (3) Increased dry season flows from agricultural runoff have led to water quality degradation in the Joshua, lower Horse, Prairie, and Shell creek tributaries of the lower Peace River; (4) Land use and cover patterns in the watershed have changed dramatically since the 1940s, with most changes occurring prior to 1979; and, (5) Water quality improvements have been made with respect to some parameters over the watershed as a whole, however, some portions of the watershed continue to experience water quality degradation.

The DEP, in coordination with the District, has completed a resource management plan for the Peace River Basin. The resource management plan recommends a number of regulatory and non-regulatory approaches toward reducing cumulative impacts in the basin. The plan incorporates many existing programs from the FDEP, the District and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Recommended actions of the highest priority include: (1) Develop a land acquisition plan and funding strategy for the Peace River Basin through collaboration of local, state, and regional conservation land acquisition entities to assure a coordinated and equitable approach; (2) Develop a proposal to ensure adequate funding for the Nonmandatory Mine Reclamation Program to fund reclamation targeted at specific water resource benefits in the basin; (3) Jointly review DEP and Southwest Florida Water Management District environmental resource permitting in the basin to determine whether permitting criteria, special basin rules or other regulatory strategies should be enhanced to minimize cumulative impacts more effectively; (4) Consider combining the Environmental Resource Permit and Conceptual Reclamation Plan approval processes into a streamlined and more protective, comprehensive phosphate mining authorization to enhance environmental protection and restoration; and (5) Work with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and area local governments to evaluate, plan and initiate financing for the necessary environmental infrastructure to assure sustainable water supplies and improved water quality in the Peace River basin.

The plan was delivered to the Florida Legislature in early March 2007.

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