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ACTION ALERT! Submit Comments to the EPA to Support Clean Water In Florida

In November the EPA accepted most of the numeric nutrient standards proposed by the Florida Department of the Environment for South Florida flowing waters, as well as for most estuaries, marine and coastal waters. The EPA decision ends a process that began in July 2008 when a coalition of environmental organizations sued the EPA in order to impose stricter nutrient standards on Florida as required under the Clean Water Act. In 2009, under a consent decree settlement the EPA announced its own stringent nutrient standards it intended to impose on the state if Florida did not develop their own standards.

The EPA’s decision conditionally approved the Florida DEP’s rule creating standards for 15% of the state’s flowing and estuarine/coastal/marine waters. Rivers and streams covered by the state rule will not have true criteria. Instead, they have “thresholds” that can be exceeded without nutrient reduction measures ever necessarily being required. The remaining 85% of Florida waters will be covered under the more stringent EPA standards.

In order for these waters to have pollution limits, the presence of algae outbreaks/fish kills/other types of biological failure would be required and subsequent studies linking the biological failure with the exceedence of the thresholds would need to be completed. The DEP rule has no commitment to do, nor timeline/deadline for study completion; therefore, waters can indefinitely exceed the thresholds with no requirement to reduce nutrient pollution inputs.

The DEP rule, also, allows tidal, intermittent, altered artificial waters and South Florida waters to be exempted from all numeric nutrient standards in the future. The EPA’s own proposed standards set numeric downstream protective values (measurable number limits in upstream waters that were tied to meeting downstream nutrient pollution standards) to prevent lakes, bays and beaches from becoming unsafe and severely polluted. The DEP rule does not include downstream protective values. Alarmingly, in its’ November decision the EPA has given notice of their intention to amend their own previous determination regarding the requirement for downstream protection values; this would allow EPA to withdraw these important pollution limits in the near future.

“Clean water is critical to healthy corals. Florida’s coral reefs are already struggling to survive the effects of water pollution and global carbon pollution.” Said Millard McCleary, Executive Program Director of Reef Relief. "If the EPA puts the FLDEP in charge of enforcing the Clean Water Act, Florida’s waters and public health will be at risk.”

“The FLDEP rules will not provide adequate control of nutrient pollution and would not prevent the already widespread water quality degradation of Florida’s waters. Florida needs true standards to improve degraded water quality that is already affecting the natural ecosystems in the State. Strong standards are critical to protect the public health, the economy and the environment of Florida. The EPA needs to ensure that the final rules provide genuine protection for which they are required under the Clean Water Act. The “thresholds” found in the FLDEP rule will not protect coral reefs which are the basis of much of the economy of the Florida Keys. It is vital that the EPA truly support clean water for Florida.” said McCleary.



To submit comments on the EPA's Coastal Water Rule Docket ID No. [EPA-HQ-OW-2009-022 FRL-9759-3] by email to [email protected] or visit for other ways to comment and more information. Deadline for comments is Feb 19, 2013


Plans to Continue Momentum for Restoring America’s Everglades at Annual Conference

The 28th annual Everglades Coalition Conference took place January 10-13th. The Coalition shared its vision and priorities for continuing strong support for Everglades restoration efforts in 2013. Reef Relief as a member of the Coalition was represented by its’ Executive Program Director, Mill McCleary. The Coalition brings together business leaders, elected officials, including members of the recently reinvigorated Congressional Everglades Caucus, and community and environmental advocates to discuss the many opportunities and challenges facing the largest wetland restoration project on the planet.

America’s Everglades is recognized as one of the world’s unique and spectacular natural wonders. The past several years yielded significant progress for restoration efforts including, a historic water quality plan that provides a path forward for reducing pollution entering and degrading the Everglades ecosystem, and the legislative passage of a statewide annual Everglades Day, which will be recognized on April 7 each year.

“A sustained fiscal and political commitment from our state and federal partners is essential for advancing Everglades restoration, including securing the passage of a Water Resource Development Act in 2013,” said Jennifer Hecker, state co-chair for the Everglades Coalition. “Without continued timely authorizations and appropriations of funding, we will be unable to maintain our momentum for restoration efforts needed to reverse the ecological degradation that is threatening wildlife, our water supply, and South Florida economies that depend on this iconic natural resource.”

Source: Dawn Shirreffs, National Everglades Coalition Co-chair, and Jennifer Hecker, State Everglades Coalition Co-chair. Everglades Coalition Press Release January 11, 2013.
Coalition’s 57 allied organizations with local, state and federal partners. For additional information, please the website at:


CC0096newFebruary is the City of Key West's Water Quality Awareness Month

Did you know that storm drains lead to the ocean?

Anything that goes into a storm drain will end up in the ocean. This is why it is important for everyone to do their part to help stop pollution.

Tips to prevent storm water pollution:

  1. Don’t litter. Trash thrown in the street or roadside will end up in the ocean. Marine animals can be smothered, or staved by eating or becoming entangled in your discarded trash. Even cigarette butts leak chemicals and are ingested by marine creatures. Save a turtle , fish, dolphin or bird by using the trash can!
  2. Properly dispose of household products that contain chemicals, such as insecticides, pesticides, used motor oil and other auto fluids. Don't pour them on the ground, into roadway gutters, or into storm drains.
  3. Don’t use water to clean your garage and driveway. Cleaners used to get the oil and gunk off your driveway should be wiped up. Hosing your driveway, sends chemical and oils into the storm drain where it goes right to the ocean.
  4. If your car is leaking fluids, get it fixed as soon as possible to prevent leakage that can be washed down the storm drains.
  5. When changing oil, use an oil change box to absorb all of the dirty oil and throw it away in the trash or Just pour it into a plastic bag with plenty of absorbent material to soak it up, then seal the bag and toss it in with the rest of your trash. Motor oil contains many harmful metals that damage our reefs.
  6. Take your car to a commercial car wash that treats or recycles its waste water, or wash your car on grass so the water is filtered into the ground.
  7. Use pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers only as-needed to reduce the chances of rain washing it down the storm drain.
  8. Use rain barrels to collect rainwater from rooftops.
  9. Talk to your neighbors, coworkers or employees so that they are aware of the impact of dumping into the storm drains.

Tips and info. courtesy of


Little Hamaca Cleanup Monday, February 18th 10:00 am – 1:00pm

Reef Relief invites you to help cleanup one of Key West's great natural areas. Little Hamaca Park preserves mangroves and hardwood hammock communities bordering the Salt Ponds in southern Key West. It is home to flora and fauna indigenous and endemic to Key West and provides vital habitat to the rare White-crowned pigeon. Help protect our coastal home by cleaning up this local treasure. Meet at the gate of Little Hamaca Park off Flagler Ave. See map.
Please contact Reef Relief to RSVP at 305-294-3100 or email us at [email protected]

acroporareef_NOAASave Our Vanishing Coral Reefs
In November, NOAA submitted its decision for Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings for 66 coral species: 59 in the Pacific and 7 in the Caribbean.

In the Pacific, 7 species would be listed as endangered and 52 as threatened.In the Caribbean, 5 would be listed as endangered and 2 as threatened. In addition, we are proposing that 2 Caribbean species—elkhorn and staghorn corals—already listed under the ESA be reclassified from threatened to endangered.

This decision came in response to a 2009 petition to list 83 species of reef-building corals under the ESA from the Center for Biological Diversity. NOAA convened a Biological Review Team to initiate a formal status review of 82 species. The result was a Status Review Report, released in April 2012.
The proposed listing is not yet final. Before making a final decision on this proposal, NOAA is taking comments. The public has 90 days to provide comments, which will be considered before NOAA issues its final decision.

You can participate by:

Submitting a public comment online. Go to and enter NOAA-NMFS-2010-0036 into the keyword search. Deadline March 7, 2013

You can, also, TAKE ACTION by signing the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition to NOAA to support its’ proposed coral listing as an important step toward raising public awareness about the plight of corals and providing them lifesaving protections.

Sign today to send a message in support of protections for corals.

Lawsuit Filed to Force Plan to Save Florida's Threatened Corals

In related coral news, this week the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to develop a recovery plan for elkhorn and staghorn corals. The NMFS protected these corals under the Endangered Species Act in 2006, but has failed to develop a recovery plan.

The Fisheries Service is required by federal law to develop and implement a recovery plan for the corals, to identify actions necessary to save the species from extinction — such as habitat restoration and protection — and enable their removal from the Act’s protection once they have met recovery goals. Species with dedicated recovery plans are significantly more likely to be improving than species without. Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190, [email protected] Source: Center for Biological Diversity

3Make a donation today by clicking the donate button or

Join online by clicking the donate now button or go to

-Join by calling Reef Relief at 305-294-3100

 -Mail your donation to:Reef Relief P.O. Box 430, Key West, FL 33040

– Or visit Reef Relief’s Environmental Center at 631 Greene St. in Key West