Water managers this week began grappling with the complexities of imposing controversial new federal pollution standards, a process made more complicated -- and potentially expensive -- in South Florida by the vast network of drainage canals.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month proposed stringent limits for nitrogen and phosphorus, two nutrients that flow into lakes and streams from fertilized lawns, sewage plants, farms, pastures and a host of other sources. Farmers, businesses, utilities and other opponents contend that the rules could cost the state upward of $50 billion.
A joint meeting of the South Florida Water Management District's governing board and its largest advisory committee in West Palm Beach produced a series of questions about the rules, which the EPA intends to finalize by October after a public comment period.
Among the questions: At what point would the Miami River and the New River in Fort Lauderdale shift from classification as rivers to canals? Should an irrigation ditch through sugar fields be as clean as an Everglades marsh? Is there a difference between a reservoir and a lake? Would the new federal rules override existing state standards for an array of other pollutants? What is this going to cost?
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