The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant policy requires work plans for state categorical program grants. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) previously agreed to a work plan associated with the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 106 grant to the state of Florida for federal fiscal year 2015.
As part of that work plan, DEP agreed to provide EPA a priority framework document which addresses how our 303(d) and total maximum daily load (TMDL) programs will implement the new long term vision for CWA Section 303(d). In summary, the long term vision:
Provides a framework for greater efficiency and success in achieving water quality.
Removes the “one size fits all” expectations.
Ensures accountability through new measures (areas addressed by TMDLs and recognition of TMDL alternatives).
The department intends to focus its efforts and prioritize waters with verified impairments, where TMDLs are necessary or desirable, in order to achieve a reasonable workload. One important part of the TMDL priority setting effort is a focus on waters where the TMDL/BMAP approach is the best of the available options for restoration. The department's resultant list of priorities are therefore best interpreted as "those impaired waters where the department expects to develop a site-specific TMDL."
Calling these waters "priorities" comes from the language contained in the EPA 303(d) long term vision and associated guidance. It does not mean that the waters on the list are the only department priorities for restoration. Other impaired waters may be the subject of alternative restoration activities such as a statewide TMDL project (for example, the statewide TMDL for mercury or reducing pathogens). In addition, some waters may be good candidates for a TMDL alternative, such as a reasonable assurance plan or water quality restoration plan ("4b plan" and "4e plan"). Other waters may have improving water quality trends or additional source identification information, suggesting naturally high levels of the given pollutant. Therefore, waters labeled a priority by this exercise, are simply those that are favorable for site-specific TMDL development.
This process is intended to select those impaired waters where site-specific TMDLs are appropriate and are the most likely solution for successful restoration. The priority setting process is time consuming, and while annual and two-year plans will need to be developed, the department does not intend to re-prioritize every year. Instead, two check-in periods will allow time to incorporate future IWR database runs and assessment lists, re-prioritize workload and complete TMDLs on the priority list (see Table 2).
State Fiscal Year (SFY)
Federal Fiscal Year (FFY)
July to September 2015
October to December 2015
Beginning of Plan
July to September 2016
July to September 2017
July to September 2018
October to March 2019
Check-in Period 1 (re-prioritize)
July to September 2019
July to September 2020
July to September 2021
April to June 2022
Check-in Period 2 (re-prioritize)
October to December 2022
New Plan Begins
Flexibility is built in two scheduled "check-in" periods during which future public comments, new sampling data, new database runs and new verified impairments can be incorporated. In the first check-in period, the department was able to catch up on TMDLs left on the list and re-prioritize the second half of the overall plan.
The update aligned with Governor Ron DeSantis signed Executive Order 19-12 (Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment), implementing major reforms to ensure the protection of Florida’s environment and water quality. Since the prioritization had already included the Lake Okeechobee watershed, DEP is able to focus its efforts in the Kissimmee River HUC, Fisheating Creek HUC and Taylor Creek HUC in the 2nd half of the plan.
Additional details can be found on the story map below (dated January 2020) or you can download the updated priority list.
Please help us improve our service by providing feedback on what you think of our updated site-specific TMDL prioritization. Contact Ken Weaver at 850-245-8414.
May 31, 2023 - 12:58pm
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.