Groups ask DEP to delay new waterway classification

Environmental groups are asking the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to delay approval of a new stream classification system.

Florida has five waterway classifications that are used to help determine the amount of pollution that can be discharged into receiving water bodies. Most waterways are designated as Class III, meaning they are support recreation and healthy fish and wildlife populations.

The Florida Stormwater Association in 2009 petitioned DEP to create a new classification so that local governments are not required to spend millions of dollars improving water quality in ditches and canals rather than the lakes and rivers that are downstream. Meanwhile, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new standards for nitrogen and phosphorus in Florida waterways.

In comment letters submitted last week to DEP, the Clean Water Network, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Clean Water Action and the Everglades Foundation said the state should wait until the federal government adopts the proposed nitrogen and phosphorus standards.

DEP spokeswoman Terri Durdaller said the department does not support delaying action. “There is a genuine need to revise our classification system to more accurately reflect the uses of our waters,” she said. DEP, she said, will take the proposal to the Environmental Regulation Commission for approval on May 20.

(Used with permission from The Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)