The Lower St. John’s River Basin Management Action Plan: Assessing Agricultural, Environmental, and Local Government PerspectivesPresentation prepared for CNREP 3rd National Forum on Socioeconomic Research in Coastal SystemsNew Orleans, LAMay 28, 2010 Laila Racevskis1, Tatiana Borisova1, and Jennison Kipp2 1Assistant Professor, Food and Resource Economics Department, University of Florida 2Resource Economist, Program for Resource Efficient Communities, University of Florida
Rationale • Contentious water and land use issues in NE FL • Complex processes of stakeholder engagement: TMDL and BMAP • Anecdotal evidence of stakeholder dissatisfaction with these processes • Little understanding of how stakeholders perceive the BMAP development process
Natural Resources Leadership Institute Practicum • 8-month training program on collaborative leadership • Practicum team of 6 Fellows from academia, law, local government, and engineering • Collaborative project to improve understanding of stakeholder perspectives of water quality issues in northeast Florida
St. John’s River • Florida’s longest river • Listed as one of nation’s 10 “Most Endangered Rivers” in 2008 • Slow flowing river, difficult to flush pollutants • Major pollution sources: wastewater treatment plant discharges and stormwater from urban and agricultural areas
Study Area: Lower St. John’s River Basin • Flows from Welaka north to river mouth at Mayport • Decline in water quality due to industry, farming and urban development • Largest nutrient contributor in LSJ is treated wastewater • Runoff from Tri-County Agricultural Area • Current pollutant loads exceed levels needed to meet state and federal water quality standards
Total Maximum Daily Load • State regulatory mechanism that sets a maximum flow of specific nutrients in a watershed • Lower SJR is subject to TMDL requirements as established by Florida DEP • Requires nitrogen and phosphorous reductions • Implementation strategy: BMAP
Basin Management Action Plan • Florida DEP convened a LSJR TMDL Executive Committee in 2002 to assist in development of a BMAP to achieve the basin’s TMDL • Complex process that involves many stakeholders with diverse interests • How has the process worked, and what are stakeholder perceptions of it?
Practicum Objectives • Improve understanding of stakeholder opinions regarding water quality management in the LSJR • Improve understanding of stakeholder perceptions of the availability and quality of information on water quality management in the LSJR • Collect information on the manner in which such information is being communicated • Share results and lessons learned with other regions who may engage in similar processes in the future.
Methods • 3 Focus Groups conducted with representatives of key stakeholder groups: • Agriculture • Environmental NGOs • Local government staff • Participant recruitment done with assistance from local extension offices • Facilitated 2-hour discussions • Results transcribed and analyzed for content and themes
Results: Main Themes • Water Quality • Causes of water pollution • Perceptions of contributing sources • Fertilizer application rates • Values and Trade-offs • Nonmarket values of the river • Tradeoffs associated with protecting the river • Process • Representation on Executive Committee • BMAP development timelines • Communication • Research and Education • Scientific information • Education • Role of Land Grant university • Policies and Programs • Policies and projects used to address water quality problems • Future policies and projects • Success stories
Areas of Difference • Finger-pointing: Ag feels that it takes the blame too often and other sources not held accountable. However, environmental groups recognize that ag is unfairly targeted • Perception of state agencies – positive and negative • Opinions about water quality credit trading
Areas of Commonality • Misbalance in composition of Executive Committee • Stakeholder opinions not heard, even from groups that had representation on the committee • Importance of general public perceptions/attitudes and education • Importance of accurate and available data • BMPs create challenges for farmers and need to be economically feasible – lack of financial resources
Conclusions • Improved communication needed • Improved data sharing needed • Broader representation of stakeholder groups on Executive Committee • Stakeholder education, invest early on in the process • Engage stakeholders more effectively – participatory and collaborative processes • Find common ground • Address distributional and economic consequences of proposed nutrient allocations • Allocate time and resources to evaluation of the TMDL/BMAP processes • Encourage information exchange about the process across watersheds in the state • Conduct technical peer review of analytical methods and products by neutral experts
Concluding Comments and Next Steps • Stakeholder input reveals process deficiencies • Other regions and states can benefit from this information • Results will be disseminated back to participants and other interested stakeholders • Additional focus groups may be conducted with utilities, homeowners associations, developers, engineers, home builders
Thank You! Questions? Contact: Laila Racevskis firstname.lastname@example.org