Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program (NEEPP)
The Office of Ecosystem Projects is the lead office
responsible for implementation of the Department of
Environmental Protection’s responsibilities under
the NEEPP, pursuant to
Chapter 373.4595 of the Florida Statutes (F.S.).
In May 2007, the Florida Legislature passed the
NEEPP, which expanded the existing Lake Okeechobee Protection Act (LOPA)
to include the Caloosahatchee and the St. Lucie Rivers and Estuaries.
The primary goal of the legislation is to restore and to protect the
state’s surface-water resources by addressing water quality, quantity,
timing, and distribution of water to the natural system.
What led to the creation of NEEPP?
Various efforts to restore and to protect the greater Everglades
ecosystem have taken place over the past few decades.
Lake Okeechobee Protection Act (LOPA). In 2000, the Lake
Okeechobee Protection Act (LOPA,
Section 373.4595, F.S.) was passed. Under LOPA, the Florida
Legislature mandated the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD),
the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP),
and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)
to establish a restoration and protection program for the Lake. This
program was to include a Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan (LOPP)
that contained an implementation schedule for subsequent phases of
phosphorus load reduction consistent with the total maximum daily
loads (TMDLs) established in
s. 403.067. Other elements of the program included the Lake
Okeechobee Construction Project (LOCP), the Lake Okeechobee
Watershed Phosphorus Control Program, the Lake Okeechobee Research
and Water Quality Monitoring Program, the Lake Okeechobee Exotic
Species Control Program, and the Lake Okeechobee Internal Phosphorus
Management Program. The overall objective of LOPA was to meet the
Lake Okeechobee TMDL of 140 metric
tons, derived by the FDEP, by 2015.
The initial LOPP was delivered to the Governor and Legislature in
2004 as mandated by LOPA. LOPA also required the SFWMD, in
cooperation with the FDEP and the FDACS, to conduct an evaluation of
any further phosphorus load retentions necessary to achieve
compliance with the Lake Okeechobee TMDL by January 1, 2004, and
every three years thereafter.
Lake Okeechobee and Estuary Recovery Program (LOER). In
October 2005, former Governor Jeb Bush announced the Lake Okeechobee
Estuary and Recovery Program (LOER).
This program is intended to help restore the ecological health of
Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. The
SFWMD, the FDEP, the FDACS, and the Florida Department of Community
Affairs (FDCA) were the
key state agencies tasked with expediting this program. Major
components of LOER included: Lake Okeechobee Fast-Track (LOFT)
Projects, Lake Okeechobee Operating Schedule Revisions, Revised
Environmental Resource Permitting Criteria, Alternative Water
Storage and Disposal Options, Lake Okeechobee Tributary TMDLs, and
Mandatory Fertilizer Best Management Practices (BMPs).
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
provides a framework and a guide to restore, to protect, and to
preserve central and southern Florida’s water resources. CERP’s
primary goal is to capture freshwater that now flows unused to the
ocean and the gulf and to redirect it to areas that need it most.
CERP is a joint effort between the SFWMD and the United States Army
Corps of Engineers (USACE).
The Plan was approved by Congress in the Water Resources Development
Act (WRDA) of 2000. The Plan includes more than 60 elements. The
goals and objectives of CERP and
NEEPP significantly overlap; therefore, the efforts complement
and support one another.
What are the main components of NEEPP?
This legislation charged the SFWMD, the FDEP, and the FDACS to
effectively coordinate in order to create this program.
II Technical Plan. A Phase II component of the Lake
Okeechobee Watershed Construction Project (LOWCP) was added in the
2007 NEEPP legislation. The legislation requires the SFWMD, in
collaboration with the FDEP and the FDACS to develop a detailed
technical plan that shall include measures for the improvement of
the quality, quantity, timing, and distribution of water in the
northern Everglades ecosystem, including the Lake Okeechobee
watershed and the estuaries, and for facilitating the achievement of
water quality standards. The Plan was submitted to the State
Legislature February 1, 2008 for ratification.
Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River Watershed Protection
Program. To achieve water quality standards and to improve the
quality, quantity, timing, and distribution of water in the northern
Everglades system, the SFWMD, in cooperation with the FDEP, the
FDACS, and affected local governments, must develop protection plans
for the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie river watersheds. These plans
were submitted to the State Legislature for ratification on January
1, 2009. There are three main components of these watershed
- River Watershed Construction Project. To improve the
hydrology, water quality, and aquatic habitats within the
watershed, the SFWMD shall, no later than January 1, 2012, plan,
design, and construct the initial phase of the Watershed
Construction Project. As part of this endeavor, the SFWMD must
develop and designate facilities to be constructed in order to
achieve the goals of the Watershed Protection Plan.
- River Watershed Pollutant Control Program. This
program is designed to be a multifaceted approach to reducing
pollutant loads by improving management of pollutant sources
within the watersheds through implementation of regulations and
BMPs, development and implementation of improved BMPs,
improvement and restoration of hydrologic function of natural
and managed systems, and utilization of alternative technologies
for pollutant reduction.
- River Watershed Research and Water Quality Monitoring
Program. The SFWMD, in cooperation with the other
coordinating agencies and local governments, shall establish
this program that build’s upon the SFWMD’s existing research
program and that is sufficient to carry out, comply with, or
assess the plans and programs laid out in the legislation.
- For more information on these plans, please visit the
SFWMD’s Northern Everglades website.
What are additional components of NEEPP?
- FDEP was directed to no later than December 31, 2008 to
propose TMDLs for nutrients in the tidal portions of the
Caloosahatchee River and estuary. The deadlines for TMDLs in
River and estuary were not affected by NEEPP.
- Annual progress reports are required, and evaluation of the
protection programs will take place every three years.
- The Legislature extended the Save Our Everglades Trust Fund
for ten years, which provided a dedicated state funding source
for the restoration through 2020.
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 24
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000
850-245-3166 (phone) / 850-245-3145 (fax)