The Trump administration’s environmental policies are putting Tampa’s waters at risk from potential sewage spills, paved-over wetlands and expanded drilling, according to Florida’s Waterways are at Risk, a new fact sheet by Environment Florida Research and Policy Center.
“Water is at the heart of what makes Tampa Bay such a special place to live,” said Jenna Stevens, state director for Environment Florida. “And yet, the federal government seems to be forgetting this by pushing for action that will do nothing but harm our community’s essential waterways.”
The fact sheet examines the potential impacts rolling back the 2015 Clean Water Rule will have on Tampa Bay. The administration's Dirty Water Rule, which was finalized in April, leaves half of our nation’s remaining wetlands and thousands of streams without federal protections. Locally, removing these safeguards could mean more pollution flowing down our rivers to the bay and would also leave the Tampa Bay region more vulnerable to flooding.
“Wetlands enhance water quality, sequester carbon, store flood water, control erosion and provide habitat for countless species,” says Jen Lomberk, Matanzas Riverkeeper and vice-chair of Waterkeepers Florida. “With the mounting water quality crisis in Florida, now is the time to strengthen our water protections -- not roll them back.”
The fact sheet also details the Trump administration’s proposal to open new areas off the Atlantic and Florida Gulf Coast to offshore oil and gas drilling. Floridians have made clear that they are opposed to drilling off their coasts. Even without any additional excavation, new research shows that it will take at least 30 years for tar from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster to degrade beneath the surface of the sand. That spill was about 100 miles off Florida’s coast, but one from a rig closer to land could cause even more widespread damage.
“Tampa Bay is home to world class fishing, pristine beaches and communities that are inextricably linked to the health of our oceans and waterways,” said Hunter Miller, the Florida Gulf Coast Campaign organizer for Oceana. “President Trump's offshore oil drilling plan threatens that and, despite strong bipartisan opposition and continuous outcry from Floridians, his dangerous and dirty plan is still a looming threat both nationwide and to Florida's Gulf Coast. It's time he removes all proposed areas, listens to Floridians and protects our coast.”
The impact of sewage spills on seagrass beds is also addressed in the fact sheet. Seagrass beds are essential to the region’s aquatic ecosystems because they provide habitat as well as food for many local sea life. In addition, they help to reduce flooding from storm surge events and assist in the fight against global warming by sequestering carbon dioxide. However,the Trump administration’s proposed budgets have called for drastic cuts to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides key municipal support across the state for updating aging sewer treatment facilities and protecting against a seagrass bed disaster.
“Tampa can’t afford this dirty and dangerous environmental legacy,” Stevens said. “We need this administration to reverse course and do all that they can to keep our waters clean and pristine.”