White_Paper_Fertiliz - FCRC

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White_Paper_Fertiliz - FCRC ...

    Scientific literature review, discussion, public comments and considerations for the proposed

    Lee County Landscape and Fertilizer Best

    Management Practices Ordinance

    (rev. 10/31/07, Lee County Division of Natural Resources)

Table of Contents




     Figure 1. Comparison Matrix………………………………………………4

     Figure 2. Wekiva Springs Watershed Protection Strategy …………………..7


     Figure 3. Budget for New Staff Positions ……………………………………17


    Page 2 of 66


    The purpose of this white paper is to provide a condensed discussion of the comments and recommendations brought forth by the community during this process and up to the October 16, 2007 public meeting at the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council. This discussion includes staff literature research to investigate the rationale and the scientific versus best professional judgment basis for each recommendation.


    Lee County has experienced a general decline in the quality of its surface water. An example of this decline has been exhibited in the Caloosahatchee resulting in harmful algal blooms, negative impacts to human health and our economy and has limited the use of our water resources. This can be attributed to the fact that the river has surpassed its capacity to assimilate nutrients. The Caloosahatchee and many of its tributaries are verified impaired for nutrients by FDEP and are scheduled for Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) development in 2008-2009. In 2008, the tributaries to the Estero Bay will also be subject to TMDL development by the State.

    In light of the State’s obligation to develop TMDLs and implement basin management action plans, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Department of Environmental Protection worked in concert to upgrade the requirements of Florida's Commercial Fertilizer Law, Chapter 576, Florida Statutes and Chapter 5E-1, Florida Administrative Code that will become effective 12/31/2007 to address the content of fertilizers distributed to the public. Lee County staff has considered this legislation heavily in the writing of the fertilizer ordinance however the County has the latitude within this ordinance to enact local legislation stronger than that set forth by the State if applicable. The State and County are relying heavily on the IFAS Florida Friendly BMPs developed for green industry as a reference for residential and professional grade fertilizer distributors, golf courses and agriculture.

    Upon staff’s review of the scientific and professional rigor of these best management practices; the BMPs are not necessarily based solely on scientific studies to draw conclusions; rather best professional judgment detailed in the Florida Green Industries (2002) manual by experienced horticultural and agronomic scientists. After speaking with many of the top experts in this field in Florida, there are apparent gaps in research. Those areas include fertilization buffer zones and no mow or low maintenance zones. Additionally, where there are gaps in data, best professional judgment was used to determine the statewide best management practices. (Personal communication; 10/18/07, Dr. Laurie Trenholm.)


    Over the course of the last year Lee County Natural Resources staff met with Lee County IFAS Extension staff, FDEP staff, members of the landscape industry, and the environmental community. A draft ordinance was submitted to these groups as well as staff from the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council (SWFRPC) for review and critique. During that time the State passed rule 5E-1.003 in August 2007 for regulation of bag content and application rates. Lee County staff cites this rule in the ordinance for these provisions to create continuity with statewide practices in Southwest Florida. In addition, Lee County staff have cited or quoted the

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    Florida Green Industries (2002) manual for best management practices with the rationale to provide continuity with other statewide practices that could be exercised in this region.

    The initial draft of the proposed ordinance followed the general format and had many of the same provisions as set forth in the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council’s (SWFRPC) Fertilizer Resolution. The SWFRPC’s resolution contains options and insight provided by

    community leaders from the Lee County Commission, Lee County staff, RPC staff, Sarasota County Commission, the City of Sanibel, the City of Bonita Springs, the University of Florida IFAS, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The SWRPC’s resolution was approved and passed unanimously by

    these agencies on March 15, 2007. Below is a table demonstrating similarities and differences among the local ordinances, the Florida Green Industries 2002 manual and the RPC resolution;

     Figure 1. Comparison Matrix

Requirement SWFRPC Sanibel Sarasota Lee County Florida Green

    Resolution Ordinance County Ordinance Industries

    (Final) (Final) Ordinance (rev. Manual(2002)

    (Final) 10/2007)

    No N (1) or P July 1 July 1 June 1 July 1 July 1

    (2) fertilizer September September September September September 30;

    application 30 30 30 30 only when

    period heavy rain is


    Maximum P 2% 2% <0.25 lbs Citation 5E-0-2%

    for turf or P/1000 sf 1.003;<0.25

    landscape per lbs P/1000

    application, sf per

    <0.50 lbs application,

    P/1000 sf <0.50 lbs

    per year P/1000 sf

    per year

    Maximum 20% 20% Not Not N/A

    total N for turf specified specified -

    or landscape 5E-1.003


    Of N, 70% 50% 50% No % No % specified;

    required slow specified; recommended

    release N Encouraged, in

    not environmentally

    mandatory sensitive areas

Maximum N 1 pound 1 pound Not Citation 5E-0.5 pounds

    per 1,000 Sq specified 1.003;1 N/1000 ft2 per

    ft per pound application


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    Requirement SWFRPC Sanibel Sarasota Lee County Florida Green

    Resolution Ordinance County Ordinance Industries

    (Final) (Final) Ordinance (rev. Manual(2002)

    (Final) 10/2007)

    Maximum N 4 pounds 4 pounds 4 pounds Turf Species Maintenance per 1,000 Sq dependent; level ft per year 3-7 lbs See dependent (up

    Rule 5E-to 6 lbs) P.26

    1.003 Table 5 Total # 6 6 Not Not Not specified fertilizer specified specified applications per year Keeping Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes fertilizer off



    Use of Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes deflectors



    No fertilizer 25 feet 25 feet 10 feet 10 ft without 10 ft without waterbody deflector, 3 deflector, 3 ft

    wetland ft with with deflector buffer zone deflector

    No mow None None Voluntary None None waterbody Low

    wetland Maintenance


    Exempt turf 60 days 60 days 60 days 60 days N/A and




    Exemption for Conditional Yes No Conditional - N/A vegetables - If >25 ft If >15 feet gardens from from

    waterbody waterbody

    Exemption for Yes Yes No Yes N/A mulch and


    Exemption for Yes Yes Yes Yes N/A Golf Courses


    Page 5 of 66

Requirement SWFRPC Sanibel Sarasota Lee County Florida Green

    Resolution Ordinance County Ordinance Industries

    (Final) (Final) Ordinance (rev. Manual(2002)

    (Final) 10/2007)

    Exemption for Yes N/A Yes Yes N/A


Reuse water 25 feet None None None N/A

    buffer to


    and wetlands

    Do-it-yourself Yes Yes - Yes None Yes

    Landscaper Mandatory Mandatory Mandatory Recommended,

    provision for BMPs, for BMPs, for BMPs, Not mandatory

    not not not

    certification certification certification

    The Board and many in the community have expressed a desire to have an ordinance that is “scientifically based”. Science can be used to justify the use of fertilizer in that there is science

    demonstrating that plants thrive when fertilizer is applied appropriately and during their peak growing season rainy season (Florida Green Industries Best Management Practices for

    Protection of Water Resources in Florida manual, 2002). Science also tells us that nitrogen and

    phosphorus run-off in local waters has a very damaging effect that is worsening with increasing population and leading to increasing inputs into the watershed. (National Academy of Science, 2000)

    One of the best studies illustrating nitrogen contributions in a single basin was done for the Wekiva Springs Watershed Protection Strategy in 2004. The following graphic shows the percent contribution for nitrogen in that basin on an annual basis. This should give some perspective on the order of magnitude of this problem in Lee County. (See Figure 1 below).

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Figure 2. Wekiva Springs Watershed Protection Strategy

     Our economy and quality of life are based on many factors including aesthetics and environmental health that directly translates to our physical and economic health. An example of scientific results that illustrate the magnitude of economic damage that communities sustain as a result of nutrient pollution is a recent University of Florida published study (Larkin & Adams 2006). This study revealed “…marine algae… populations are greatly influenced by water quality (e.g., levels of salinity, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, and minerals)” and “…that harmful algal

    blooms (HABs) were found to reduce restaurant and lodging revenues in the localized study area by $2.8 million and $3.7 million per month, respectively, which represents a 29% to 35% decline in average monthly revenues for each sector during months of red tide incidence” in Destin, FL.

    While tourism is a significant part of our economy it is not the only contributor. The landscape industry supplies jobs and revenues to Lee County as well. This community is understandably very concerned that their livelihood may be threatened by requirements to change cultural practices or limit nutrient application to lawns and the loss of autonomy to tailor agronomic programs for clientele. A market “disruption” such as this can be an opportunity for businesses to innovate and thrive regardless of changes that may be required. (Applegate, 2007) Lee County’s

    tourism industry relies very heavily on environmental quality. The industry draws approximately 2 million visitors per year with a contribution to our economy of direct revenues of approximately $1.3 billion and indirect revenues of $2 billion annually. (Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, 2006

    In addition to the cost to various sectors of the economy is the cost to the County’s operations and management budget. There are very few estimates given in research for the cost of nitrogen removal per pound however we do have good estimates supplied by IFAS research for the Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration efforts. The gap in research to determine nitrogen removal costs is largely driven by the geographic priority in which the Federal government, State and WMD have pursued restoration.

    The following is a hypothetical cost estimate to remove non-point source pollution based on a comparison of the 2003 IFAS (Sano, 2003) estimated cost for phosphorus removal in Lake

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    Okeechobee and the Everglades and actual Lee County data outputs from the Water Management Model (WMM) used for the Southwest Florida Feasibility Study (SWFFS). According to the WMM output the annual average load of phosphorus in all of Lee County is 146,000 lbs/yr. Using the median values for both the cost estimate (1800 $/lb) and the removal goal (64% or 93,000 lbs) from the IFAS study the cost estimate to remove phosphorus in Lee County using a traditional STA or filter marsh system is $167,000,000 amortized over 50 years for an annual expenditure of $3,300,000 per year. This estimate is made to give the reader an idea of the rough order of magnitude costs involved in phosphorus pollution removal. This estimate should not be considered an assessment of actual costs that will be incurred by Lee County to obtain compliance with future TMDLs, but a realistic estimate based on a scenario applicable to Lee County.

    The strategy proposed by the industry and the lay community for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution prevention is public education for homeowners. The cost estimate for this is roughly $245,000 for the first year and $81,000 for the next four years to cover salary, materials and operating expenses for two new FYN Extension Agents. Public education is only one pollution prevention strategy to follow, but could save Lee County tax payers millions of dollars per year. There is little statistical data at this point quantifying the impact of public education, however the cost of implementing education to achieve pollution prevention is obviously far less than the cost to build and maintain stormwater treatment areas. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of

    cure…” B. Franklin

    Landscape and fertilizer industry economics are certainly an important factor to consider. There are many products available to help decrease the frequency fertilizer must be applied. One of the family of products designed to reduce frequency of application is slow release fertilizers. They come in a variety of forms that allow for break down by microbial action, water exposure, and heat exposure. Resistance to change is an understandable reaction for the landscape and fertilizer industry communities as it will require user education and accommodation by the fertilizer producers to supply these products for use by landscapers. There is however, evidence in other communities which have decreased their nitrogen use that markets will adapt to demands created by market “disruptions” such as new regulation. The European Fertilizer Manufacturers Association has observed a decline over the last several years for the demand for nitrogen products as a result of stricter environmental regulation. The result is that they work diligently on forecasting demand and adjust their products to meet that demand. This shift in demand has notably been lead by the European agricultural industry.

    To this point, County staff has primarily focused on continuity between state rules and guidelines as the architectural framework of this ordinance. Upon review by stakeholders concerns have been raised by industry, the environmental community as well as other concerned citizens.

    The following is a discussion of these issues as they have been raised through written public comment;

1) Inclusion of residential landscapers/consumers in the ordinance: Residential (Do-it-

    yourself or DIY) landscapers are often less knowledgeable about potential environmental

    consequences with respect to fertilizers, the cost associated with wasteful behavior and may

    be more apt to apply fertilizers improperly. In fact, Lee County residential fertilizer sales

    have increased from 5,238 tons in 1998 to 20,420 in 2006 an increase of 15,182 tons or a

    290% increase. Exempting residential (non-professional, DIY) applicators would be contrary

    to the Lee County findings related to the significant impact of the DIY activity as a

    contributor and part of fertilizer loading. The Florida Fertilizer Task Force has accumulated

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    the following data on fertilizer use statewide; 75% Farm Use, 25% Non-Farm Use, Do It Yourself (DIY) Lawn Fertilizer use is 4.2% of total fertilizer use and DIY Lawn Fertilizer use is 17.4% of Non-Farm fertilizer use. In the Wekiva basin study discussed in the Summary above (Figure 1), residential fertilizer use is attributed to 42% of the total nitrogen input to the system.

    Given the significance of residential fertilizer contribution of nutrients to our watersheds, community concerns and the prevalence of Do-It-Yourself residential landscapers, it is important to acknowledge that homeowners impact on local water quality.

    Staff acknowledges that regulation of landscape professionals is much more feasible than individual residences; however the publication of this ordinance with recommendations impacting residences will provide a mechanism to ensure that the citizens of Lee County become aware of water quality impacts and set the frame work for further steps to be taken to manage residential fertilizer runoff. As part of this shift, residential applicators must attend appropriate landscape BMP classes to help them realize the impacts of their actions. The influx of new residents to Florida is 2.5% annually and of the total population of Florida 92.9% is urban with an estimated population of 17,019,068 as of 2003. (USDOE, 2003) Considering the rapid increase to Florida’s population and specifically to Lee County, this task will require more enforcement and education. In addition, adding do-it-yourself landscapers to the ordinance will reduce any perceived inequity to the landscape industry.

    #1 Options for consideration:

    a) Add a section to the proposed Landscape & Fertilizer Best Management

    Practices Ordinance to encourage homeowner attendance to Florida Yards and

    Neighborhoods best management practices classes.

    b) Recommend/Encourage residential landscapers to comply with same provisions

    as professionals: The current proposed ordinance does not have a provision to

    mandate the same rules for residential (do-it-yourself) and professional landscapers.

    The current ordinance can be amended to recommend or include compliance or

    participation to homeowners. If the Board desires to have mandatory enforcement of

    residential landscapers in the future, there will have to be significant changes made to

    the existing ordinance. As the DIY landscapers have not been included in the

    development of the ordinance to date, proper notice to all residential stakeholders

    will have to be issued and there may be a need for more enforcement staff to

    accommodate the increased workload.

    The process for developing this ordinance to date has focused on the professional

    landscape community only. There has not been proper notice given to residential

    stakeholders to include them in this process. Adding the regulation of homeowners to

    this ordinance does not change enforceability; however it does increase the

    population requiring enforcement (level of effort).

    c) Increasing the capacity of current FYN course loads: This will require more staff

    to conduct these courses as well as publicity to get more residents attending these

    courses. A budget with options for staffing is in Appendix A below.

    d) Posting information in plain sight at retail establishments, the publication of this

    ordinance as it will impact residences as well as distribution of educational

    materials will also be necessary to gain residential compliance and provide a

    mechanism to ensure that the citizens of Lee County become aware of water quality

    impacts and to give them a practical demonstration of what best management

    practices are and how to use them.

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    e) Post-ordinance development of incentives for individual residences to retrofit

    their yards meet the Lee County Land Development Code or Florida Yards and

    Neighborhoods standards will go a long way for water conservation and decreased

    utilization of fertilizer. Staff recommends utilizing either the Lee County Extension

    Services Citizen’s Advisory Committee or the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary

    Program’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee to develop these incentives. The research

    to gather this information should take approximately six months including cost

    estimates and detailed descriptions of incentives.

2) Black-out period for the summer rainy season; According to the Florida Green Industries

    Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources in Florida manual, Peninsular

    Florida receives approximately 50 inches of rain fall annually and that the greatest nutrient

    utilization by plants is during the rainy season when the plants are growing. The manual

    recommendation for the rainy season is “Do not apply fertilizer when heavy rains are

    imminent.Recently IFAS issued the following clarification of that statement;

    “There are apparently no official definitions of “heavy rains” or “imminent.”

    However, heavy rain is generally understood as rainfall occurring in a short period

    of time that can lead to the displacement of soil and mulch and/or cause saturated or

    near-saturated soils. “Imminent” can be interpreted as rainfall expected within 24

    hours. Rainfall amount and pattern during the rainy season may differ from year to

    year. Not every rainfall in the rainy season is a heavy rainfall. In fact, during some

    rainy seasons there are periods that are often described as „mini droughts‟. Thus,

    heavy imminent rainfall may not be forthcoming during a typical rainy season.” (E-

    mail communication from Stephen Brown, 10/12/07)

    As pointed out by Mr. Brown in IFAS’s clarification of the meaning of the guidance language for application during the rainy season, there is no certainty when heavy rainfall may occur and given that the probability of heavy rainfall in Lee County may or may not occur uniformly and yet this ordinance would account for Lee County uniformly, a more conservative approach would be to keep the fertilizer “black-out” during the rainy season. There are best management practices to accommodate for no nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer application during the summer such as application of iron to keep turf grasses green, soil pH testing for improving turf grass nutrient uptake, as well as utilization of slow release fertilizers prior to the rainy season. In addition, the Florida Green Industries Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources in Florida manual cites that grass clippings are a good source of nutrients when left on turf grasses (p. 19-20). This ordinance does not seek to prohibit this cultural practice.

    NOAA ( defines the wet season as late May through mid October. Historical data by the SFWMD and the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program indicate the wet season being from June to October. (Boswell et al, 2006 and

    This provision has been debated from the perspective of water quality scientists and agronomic scientists. From the perspective of water quality science an important factor to consider is ever increasing impervious cover in Lee County. Impervious cover increases run-off potential and exacerbates water quality problems. “… the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council projected that urban land use would increase to 35% by 2020... Of the 11 secondary sub-basins in the Estero Bay watershed, seven are estimated to have impervious cover percentages of over 10% based on 1995 land uses (Estero Bay Agency for Bay Management, State of the Bay Report, in press). The ten percent threshold for impervious cover is widely accepted as the level that water

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