Follow the countys lead

By Editorial
Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, TAMPA BAY newspaper

Pinellas County commissioners passed an ordinance Jan. 19 that will help protect the county’s waterways. 
The ordinance includes a ban on the sale and application of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers from June 1 to Sept. 30. It also regulates landscape and maintenance practices. 
The proactive measure taken by county commissioners stems from months of study and strong support from agencies that are stewards of the area’s fragile environment. 
According to the Sierra Club, freshwater and coastal systems in the state have been plagued by toxic and harmful algae blooms. In 2005 Southwest Florida experienced the worst red tide bloom in 34 years, creating a “dead zone” the size of Rhode Island. 
The ordinance is modeled after one prepared by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, which strives to coordinate the protection and restoration of the bay, which is Florida’s largest open-water estuary. 
Underlying the significance of the bay, more than 70 percent of all fish, shellfish and crustaceans spend some critical stage of their development in estuaries. About 40,000 pairs of birds nest in Tampa Bay every year. 
The Tampa Estuary Program says that addressing past damage to bay habitats and protecting them in the future remains the greatest challenge for the bay managers. Maintaining improvements in water quality attained in recent decades will require more efforts every year to compensate for increased pollution caused by growth. 
Since local governments spend millions of dollars annually to remove nitrogen from waterways through stormwater treatment methods, it behooves them to follow the county’s lead and adopt similar ordinances. 
Regulating the sale and use of fertilizers is an effective way to manage nitrogen levels in the bay because it is designed to address the direct source of nitrogen instead of the higher cost of removing it from the water. 
Gulfport and St. Petersburg are the only two of the county’s 24 municipalities that have fertilizer ordinances, but most others have said they would adopt the county’s ordinance. Other counties also have such ordinances on the books. 
The waterways remain a mainstay of the area’s economy, particularly tourism. Other local governments shouldn’t hesitate to follow the county’s lead. Failing to take action, over fear of creating too much government or other reasons, equates to money down the drain.

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Article published on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010

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