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Everglades Highlights

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.).

Lake Okeechobee from the air (Creative Commons - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/)Background

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 accordance with 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.

Lake Okeechobee by Casey Price (Creative Commons - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/)Phase 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 protection plans:

  • 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 the St. Lucie 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.




Office of Ecosystem Projects
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 24   Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000  
850-245-2228 (phone) / 850-245-3145 (fax)

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Last updated: May 17, 2013